BMC Elections: Congress, BJP not to tango with Shiv Sena for now

Loser Congress prefers to wait till UP Assembly elections are over, BJP focuses on other civic corporations and ZPs

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BMC Elections: Congress, BJP not to tango with Shiv Sena for now
L to R: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

On Saturday, all three stakeholders – Shiv Sena, BJP and Congress – held high-level internal meetings and then rushed to deny that they were talking to one another, signalling continuation of the stalemate in the hung Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Despite intensive consultations and weighing of permutations and combinations, the three parties are unlikely to open their cards till March 8 when the Assembly elections in UP and Manipur get over.

Mayoral election is slated for March 9.

Denying all reports of support to Shiv Sena, Congress's city chief Sanjay Nirupam said on Saturday, "Sena leaders have sent the feelers but there is no question of an alliance with Shiv Sena. Our ideologies are totally different, how can we even think of such a tie-up?"

To prove his point, Nirupam announced that his party would field a "secular candidate" for mayor's election after a tie-up with the Nationalist Congress Party and other like-minded groups. When pressed for clarification on the possibility pf Congress abstaining during mayoral election or fielding its own candidate, Nirupam refused to open his cards. He just said, "We are in the process of working out a post-poll alliance with the NCP in Mumbai and elsewhere in the state."

Former chief minister and Congress MLA Prithviraj Chavan, however, indicated there was still room for discussion. "Congress will take a decision on supporting Shiv Sena soon. However it will be taken by the high command directly or in consultation with them because it's a serious issue," he said.

When told about Nirupam's outright denial about the tie-up, Chavan said,"I can't comment on views of others."

Clearly Congress leaders are not on the same page. Sources say a national leader close to Sonia Gandhi is keen on a tie-up.

The Congress' dilemma is understandable. Even a hint of coming closer to Sena, a party with a Hindutva agenda, may damage the party's prospects in the ongoing UP Assembly elections. The stakes are high for the Congress in that state, where it has taken a political gamble by forging a pre-poll alliance with the Samajwadi Party.

Sena too has denied reports of looking for Congress support. Sena leader Anil Parab told media that "No talks are being held with the Congress."

When asked if the Sena will never have an alliance with the BJP, he said, "The decision will be taken by the party leadership."

Analysts say fielding of a 'secular candidate' as proposed by the Congress will have no effect as such parties' strength in the BMC is around 50. "Even if the Congress abstains and facilitates the election of Sena mayor, the Sena will still face obstacles in running the House on a day-to-day basis," says an observer.

The mayor alone can't do much. Due to almost equal strength of BJP, it would be hard for the Sena to get its proposals cleared in the Standing and Improvement Committees. Moreover, being a ruling party in the state, the BJP can easily get support of a handful members of any party to make things difficult for Sena," says another political analyst.

These two factors are giving some respite to leaders of the BJP, which has decided not to show all its cards for a few days in the hopes of forcing the Sena make the first move towards a rapprochement.

The Shiv Sena camp appeared to be the most active one. Party chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday met with his councillors, whose number has risen to 88 with four independents coming into the Sena fold. "They were told to work hard and fulfil the promises made by the party," said a party leader.

The BJP, though, appeared clueless on Saturday. Although the party had announced after the BMC result that the next mayor would be from BJP, they are still not sure how. "We have decided to focus on mayoral elections in other civic corporations. Besides, out of 25 zilla parishad, we had got majority in 6 and largest in other six. Our energies are now diverted to those civic bodies which we have won for the first time. Till the, dust in Mumbai will be cleared,' said a senior BJP leader.

When asked about party's calculation to reach 114 and possibility of joining hands with Shiv Sena to get his mayor elected, BJP city chief Ashish Shelar said, "We are not doing any math. By the way, we never said anything about the number 114. Let me clarify, there is no talk with the Shiv Sena as of now." Chief Minister also clarified BJP would never go with the Congress.

Shiv Sena to go to Court for voter list fiasco:

Shiv Sena to approach Court for voter list mess up

Two days after BMC results, the Shiv Sena has decided to approach Bombay High Court over the mess-up in the voter-list of Mumbai and Thane. Party has also launched a toll-free number and asked citizens to register their names if their names were missing in the voter lists on Tuesday polls.

Party claims over 12 lakh names were missing from the list which affected its poll prospects. State election officials however claim only "400-500 names were missing that too because of change of wards."

On the polling day, the party leaders had accused that names were deleted deliberately by the officials at the behest of the BJP government.

Outcome of several wards were decided by wafer thin margin. Shiv Sena has emerged as largest party winning 84 seats in the BMC, however, it is far ahead from the magic number 114 needed to get its mayor in the House of 227.

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