Shiv Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP seat-sharing talks to begin as battle for BMC hots up
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election will be held on 21 February, but until the time of writing, there have been no signs of an alliance between the Shiv Sena and BJP on one hand, or the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party on the other
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election will be held on 21 February, but until the time of writing, there have been no signs of an alliance between the Shiv Sena and BJP on one hand, or the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party on the other. With barely 35 days left for the election of corporators for the country’s richest civic body, there have yet to be any formal proposals discussed.
The first dialogue between the Sena and BJP is set to take place on Monday evening at a suburban hotel, with Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai, MLC Anil Parab and Ravindra Mirlekar representing the Sena, and BJP Mumbai president Ashish Shelar and Education Minister Vinod Tawde representing the ruling party in the state and at the Centre.
In the 2012 civic election, the Sena contested 158 seats and won 75, whereas the BJP contested 69 and won 32 seats. But in the 2014 Assembly election, the BJP emerged as the number one party in Mumbai. Of 36 seats, the BJP won 15 seats, while the Sena won 14 seats. As per BJP statistics from the time, of the 227 BMC wards, the BJP was ahead in 144 during the Assembly polls. And so, the BJP's demand is that the old ratio of 69:158 (considering the BJP had until the 2014 Assembly polls, been the junior member in the state) must change to something like 110:117 to reflect the new dynamic. A source within the Sena, however pointed out, "We are ready to tie up with BJP in Mumbai but on our terms and condition, not theirs. We are ready to change the seat-sharing equation, but not if they want 100-plus seats."
Both parties conducted their own surveys, with the Sena claiming that contesting the election solo would see its numbers jump from 75 to 105-110 seats, while in alliance, the party's numbers would increase from 75 to just 85. As a result, grassroots workers and office-bearers want the party to go it alone in the BMC election. Meanwhile, the BJP's survey concluded that going it alone would see the party's numbers increase three-fold, from 32 to over 100.
On the other side of the political spectrum, NCP president Sharad Pawar has appealed for an alliance with the Congress in the 10 municipal corporations and 26 zilla parishads.
However, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam told Firstpost that there is no possibility of such an alliance with the NCP in Mumbai. "I have already gave report to (senior leader) Mohan Prakash and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. On the basis of recommendations made by prominent leaders, we have decided to contest the BMC polls independently. We will contest all the 227 seats and our list is expected within a week," said Nirupam.
State party president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan also ruled out an alliance with the NCP in Mumbai. "However, for the rest of Mumbai, an alliance is possible and we will discuss the strategy at the meeting on Monday," he told Firstpost, "Also, we are already allies in the teacher and graduate constituency elections to be held next month. And while it is not possible to ally with the NCP everywhere, we have given the go-ahead for local unit-level alliances with the NCP. Congress district presidents have been authorised to take a decision."
In response, NCP Mumbai unit president Sachin Ahir said, "The Mumbai Congress chief always says that their party doesn't want to ally with us. So, went ahead and announced 45 NCP candidates. But, we'll have a better idea about a possible alliance after the meeting between our leaders and those of the Congress on Monday evening."
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik added that it wasn't too late for a tie-up. "We already declared our list for Mumbai, but we are open for a discussion to stop the Shiv Sena from ruling the BMC again."
An interesting trend on both sides of the political divide is that the Sena and Congress are willing to ally with the BJP and NCP, albeit selectively. In other words, neither party wants a hard-and-fast statewide alliance, preferring a pocket-wise alliance. How these equations will come together will become much clearer after both sides hold high-level meetings on Monday evening.
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