BMC elections 2017: BJP, Shiv Sena workers keen on going it alone, but babus fear crossfire

Top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena both seem in favour of an alliance ahead of municipal polls to the country's richest municipal body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), next month. However, neither set of office bearers and party cadre seem too excited about the idea. With alliance talks set to start from Monday, karyakartas from both sides are insistent on going it solo.

Both Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and BJP's Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis are keen on a tie-up, fearing vote split, and a Congress victory if this happens. Moreover, even the IAS, IPS administrators are of the opinion that a tie-up between the saffron ideological partners is important for the benefit of the city.

 BMC elections 2017: BJP, Shiv Sena workers keen on going it alone, but babus fear crossfire

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray with Devendra Fadnavis. PTI file image

However, if the two split ways over the next 35 days, it would hurt the Sena more. As elections draw nearer, there will be a slew of inquiries, and BJP has already made its stand clear — that it's the Sena that is responsible for road work, nullah cleaning, and garbage collection.

Apart from Mumbai, nine other municipal corporations — Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Akola, Solapur and Amravati — will also witness polling on 21 February. Results will be declared on 23 February. Submission of forms will start from 27 January and will continue till 7 February. For 12 days after that, until 19 February, campaigning will be underway.

On Thursday, at the BJP state executive meeting in Thane, workers demanded the party go it solo. However, Fadnavis said an alliance with Sena would bring about development and transparency in governance. Addressing the meeting, Fadnavis admitted there are differences between the allies. Sena and BJP may be two different parties and they will remain different. But to avoid playing into Congress' hands, they should join hands, he said.

Soon after this, BJP started an official dialogue. Sena MP and party secretary Anil Desai confirmed that BJP state president Raosaheb Danve called Thackeray. From Monday onwards, the seat sharing formula will be discussed by the two party leaders, he added. "Shiv Sena has been in favour of an alliance with BJP since Day 1. We aren't ready for an alliance in pockets; we want a overall tie-up in all 10 municipal corporations, and all 26 zilla parishads," he said.

However, party workers from both sets want to go solo. Neither set of karyakartas are keen on an alliance. Contestants too are keen to try out their political fate; MLAs and MPs from both parties are constantly attacking each other. While BJP MP Kirit Somaiya and Mumbai unit president Ashish Shelar have directly highlighted corruption in the Sena controlled BMC, Sena leaders Ramdas Kadam and MLC Anil Parab have accused BJP of using Sena's support to grow. In the last two years especially, leaders of both parties have been confident of competing in all 227 wards.

On the other hand, if an alliance doesn't materialise, both parties will be accused of hurting each other's chances and indirectly helping out the Congress. Talking to Firstpost, a senior BMC official said that the next 35 days are crucial for everybody concerned. If the talks fail, both parties will be in serious trouble. The standard code of conduct has begun, but until 8 March, the current civic representatives will remain in place. "So we have to follow the orders of the mayor, standing committee chairman, educational committee chairman and BEST," he said.

So, if the Shiv Sena and BJP alliance can work smoothly, the BMC's roads department will hold a second phase of enquiry, but the report will not come out before the results are out. But if talks fail, Fadnavis may give instructions to civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who would have to obey the chief minister.

The first phase of roads' enquiry, in which 35 roads were checked by the additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, investigated the Rs 350 crore scam. For the first time in the history of the BMC, six contractors and three senior civic officials are behind bars. But the second phase is being delayed.

The civic body's enquiry department is also probing suspected engineers and staffers, and those who were found guilty in the Rs 100 crore nullah desilting scam. More than 14 tainted officials were suspended in September last year. But the final outcome has not yet come.

So you have senior BMC and police officials and MMRDA staff, including those working on the Mumbai Metro, who want a Sena-BJP alliance. Senior police officers know that if the alliance breaks, there will be daily worries for the force. On both sides, pressure is up and nobody can focus on the city's law and order situation. Senior MMRDA and MMRC officials also know that if  the two parties contest solo, the actual work of digging and diversion of roads would grind to a halt. Agitations have been taking place everyday, and the project has been delayed by over two months, said a senior MMRDA official.

So you have the entire senior politicians and administrators, including police, BMC and MMRDA urging the warring partners Shiv Sena and BJP to join hands. If only the actual party workers would understand.

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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2017 21:49:22 IST