Mumbai civic polls: Fadnavis confident of BJP-Shiv Sena tie-up, but firm on equal share of seats

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has targeted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), saying the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will clean the civic body's functioning, reduce corruption and improve development. "The BMC will not function the way it currently is. There will be total transparency, zero corruption," Fadnavis said.

Speaking to Firstpost after the conclusion of the Winter Session of state Legislature in Nagpur, Fadnavis indicated the BJP has big ambitions for the upcoming civic assembly polls to be held in Mumbai in March 2017. "BJP has more MLAs from Mumbai than any other party. It clearly means we have a strong presence here. Every party wants to grow. BJP also wants to grow, not just in Mumbai but throughout the state," he said.

The BJP's ally, both in state and national politics, Shiv Sena, controls the BMC, and has been in power for the last 15 years. But the BJP fared better in the last Assembly elections held in 2014, winning 15 seats from Mumbai to Shiv Sena's 14. Fadnavis said the seat sharing agreement between the two would have to reflect this shift. "We are ready for an alliance with Shiv Sena. But they need to know the strength of BJP has gone up. We are positive about an alliance, but not eager. We want the ratio of seat sharing be changed, to reflect BJP's improved performance in the last state elections," he added.

 Mumbai civic polls: Fadnavis confident of BJP-Shiv Sena tie-up, but firm on equal share of seats

Devendra Fadnavis victory. AFP

"If you ask me, in a personal capacity, BJP is ready to tie up with Shiv Sena for civic polls across the state in March. There are 10 municipal corporations, 26 zilla parishads and 297 panchayat samitis which will have elections in March. Shiv Sena came to us with negotiations for municipal council polls at the last minute, so we couldn't have an alliance in many places," Fadnavis said.

He added that he enjoys a good rapport with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. "There is no rift or misunderstanding between us. There are some issues at the local level, but we speak to each other and sort it out. So we are ready to discuss seat sharing with Shiv Sena for BMC and zilla parishad polls, both. But they need to know our existing strength," he said.

But Fadnavis dodged the question of what if negotiations break down and if his party be willing to go it alone? "I have a good rapport with Uddhavji. Don't worry, we are natural allies and we'll sort out the alliance issue in the coming few days. Both parties know the benefits of an alliance. I have full freedom to take a decision about the future of an alliance with Shiv Sena," he said, adding that the Centre has also given the go-ahead for a tie-up with Sena.

"I have received a full mandate from the Centre to go ahead and have a tie-up with Shiv Sena. To prove its majority in the BMC and 10 other corporations, an alliance is a must. I am ready to do it. But at the same time, Sena must acknowledge BJP's growth in Mumbai since the 2014 Assembly election. Seat sharing percentages should be on the basis of this growth," he said.

There are 15 BJP MLAs as compared to 14 from Sena. In the BMC, BJP has 34 corporators to Sena's 78. But it could also be because of the pre-poll seat-sharing agreement that had the Sena fight over 150 seats while BJP contested just 69.

But while Fadnavis and national leaders have been speaking in favour of the alliance with Sena, other BJP leaders — including the party's Mumbai president Ashish Shelar and MP Kirit Somaiya — openly attacked tie-up.

If an alliance led by BJP comes to power in the BMC, Fadnavis said, there will be a different work culture, one focusing on transparency and development. "We will rid the BMC of corruption and boost investment here. The BMC's annual budget is more than Rs 32,000 crore, while the MMRDA operates with a budget of just Rs 4,500 crore. However, when it comes to investments, MMRDA has ongoing projects worth over Rs 70,000 crore. We will ensure BMC projects are bigger than MMRDA's, and also more helpful and beneficial for Mumbaikars. There are so many inquiries going on involving corruption within the civic body in Mumbai. Special Investigation Teams have been formed. We want a corruption-free BMC," he said.

The corruption within the BMC has been an issue that Fadnavis has increasingly been highlighting in recent weeks. He also spoke of the manner in which BJP governments have been functioning at the Centre at in different states, including Maharashtra. "I held over 50 meetings while campaigning for the municipal council polls. Whenever I spoke of demonetisation, the people attending the meeting started applauding and raising their hands and saying they stand with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It's the confidence the common man has in the BJP. They all want honest, corruption-free governments. Like we did in the country and in Maharashtra, we will once again prove we have the confidence of the people," he said.

He denied that post-demonetisation angst might hamper the BJP's chances of success at the upcoming civic body polls. "The BJP will once again be number one. People are facing shortage of money, but they are with Modiji. They still back the BJP because they know that whatever decision Modiji has taken, it has been for the good of the nation. They are enduring short term difficulties because they know the long-term gains will be worth the effort," Fadnavis added.

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Updated Date: Dec 19, 2016 12:11:15 IST