BMC Standing and Education Committee elections: Sena wins again, with help from BJP

Its candidate was elected chairman of the standing committee, after BJP supported him at the last moment; Had the BJP abstained from voting, Sena would have lost

After uncertainty right until the last moment, the Shiv Sena managed to retain its hold over the BMC’s purse strings, through the standing committee. The Sena’s Yashodhar Phanse was once again elected chairman yesterday after the Sena-BJP joined hands to support him at the last moment. The same was followed in the Education Committee, where the Sena’s Hemangi Worlikar became the chairperson. This seems to be a curtain raiser to the 2017 BMC elections, with both the parties threatening to break the alliance and contest independently.

Yashodhar Phanse is greeted by Mayor Snehal Ambekar after he was elected chairman of the standing committee
Yashodhar Phanse is greeted by Mayor Snehal Ambekar after he was elected chairman of the standing committee

The Sena-BJP saffron alliance is in power in the BMC with 104 corporators in all. In the standing committee - the most important committee of all that decides allocation of funds - Sena has 10 corporators and BJP has 5. While in the case of other committees, the chairmanship is rotated between the two parties, the standing committee has traditionally been with big brother Sena while the improvements committee, with the BJP. The chairpersons of BEST, Health, Law are kept in rotation. Therefore, the BJP’s Ritu Tawde held the chairmanship of the education committee in the previous term, which was supposed to be smoothly handed over to the Sena.

The saffron alliance was strained until recently when both parties had decided to go their separate ways for the ward council elections. The BJP had fielded a separate candidate in three councils (prabhag samiti), an indication of a rift. If the same would have happened in the committees, that is, if the BJP had not supported the Sena candidates at the last moment, the Congress could have surged ahead.

Phanse was pitted against Congress’ Sunil More while Worlikar was pitted against Congress’ Dr Priyatama Sawant. Uncertainty loomed right until Monday night, with talks of the BJP abstaining from voting. Had it abstained and the SP, MNS parties supported the Congress candidate, the Sena, for the first time, would have lost the post.

But as voting began on Tuesday, Phanse got 14 votes (including BJP’s) while More got 8. One BJP corporator was not allowed to vote as per court orders. In the 26 member committee, three MNS corporators remained absent while SP corporator Rais Shaikh abstained. Thus, Phanse won with a margin of 6 votes. In the education committee, Worlikar got 15 votes while Sawant got 6. Here, too, the BJP supported the Sena.

“The BJP wanted to show the Sena, which is the bigger party in the BMC, that they are inevitable for success. They made their point by giving Sena the jitters and then patched up at the last moment. The BJP is trying to make a difference in the alliance. This is like a rehearsal to the BMC elections,” said a political observer.

He said that even if the BJP has fielded candidates in the ward council elections, candidature can be withdrawn at the last moment, which will be most likely. Council elections will be conducted in three phases from April 7 onwards. BJP leader Manoj Kotak was not available for comment.

The Votes

Standing Committee:

Total: 26

Sena-BJP: 14

Congress: 8

MNS: 3 absent

SP: 1 abstained

Education committee:

Total: 26

Sena-BJP: 15

Congress: 6

SP: 1 abstained

NCP: 1 absent

MNS: 3 absent

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