Shiv Sena is a sinking ship, says BJP Mumbai president Ashish Shelar

Feb 05, 2017, 15:15 IST | Laxman Singh

BJP city president Ashish Shelar says the Shiv Sena has been exploiting the Marathi manoos, who will soon abandon it

Ashish Shelar has shored up BJP's Mumbai presence. Pic/Rane Ashish
Ashish Shelar has shored up BJP's Mumbai presence. Pic/Rane Ashish

When the 25-year-old alliance between the Shiv Sena and the BJP came to an acrimonious end, it was a given that the two parties would not mince words. However, the war of words seems to be taking a direction of its own now. First, the BJP accused Shiv Sena of being a party of 'extortionists', the Sena immediately responded by calling BJP a party of 'goons'. Now, the latest to join the bandwagon is BJP Mumbai president Ashish Shelar, who said the Sena is a sinking ship that is being abandoned by the Marathi manoos. He also sheds light on what they feel are 'dynasty politics'. Excerpts from a chat.

Despite the PM's insistence that the BJP is not about dynasty politics, the BJP's list suggests otherwise. Children of leaders and wives of sitting corporators have been given tickets.
By dynasty politics, we mean party ownership of one family, like the NCP, Congress and Sena, where you have to please one person to get a ticket. BJP is the only party without a family controlling it. Also, while giving tickets, we didn't see relationships; we saw the candidate's work for the party. And, just because they are children of prominent leaders, we cannot deny them a ticket. This is not dynasty politics.

You have been a Sena ally in the BMC since 1999. Why hasn't the topic of corruption been raised before? Won't people think the Sena alone is not responsible for corruption?
It's not just now that we have made corruption in the BMC an issue. It was our party that spoke about corruption in the auctioning of Crawford Market or when the BMC was buying tablets for civic schools at higher prices. We brought all these issues to light. But, since Modi is at the Centre and CM Fadnavis in the state has adopted a zero tolerance policy for corruption, we want to replicate it in the BMC. Also, please note that we have not said the Sena is directly responsible for corruption. We have asked the administration, but it seems they have decided to take on the responsibility for scams and answer on the administration's behalf. I ask a question to the commissioner, I get a reply from the standing committee chairman. This says a lot.

Uddhav Thackeray has said the BJP is a party of goons and once they win the BMC polls, they will quit the state government alliance.
I have already said the Shiv Sena is a party of extortionists. From the lower level workers right up to the contractors in the BMC, all have a nexus with the Sena corporators. No one can beat them in this. In our list, see how many people have criminal records and then compare it with the Sena's list. Also, about breaking the alliance, Fadnavis will take an appropriate decision when the time comes.

In the run-up to the polls, more than 15 sitting Sena corporators and senior functionaries have defected to the BJP, and you have promised tickets to everyone. Is this because BJP has a dearth of candidates?
This question is more apt for the Sena, as they have inducted long-term BJP functionaries and two-term corporators like Harshad Desai and Mangal Bhanushali. The Sena hasn't even left our ward level leaders. Moreover, because we give tickets democratically, more and more people are joining us. We have received 2017 applications for the 227 seats, so where is the dearth?

The Sena is trying to eat into the BJP's Gujarati vote bank, which is angry over demonetisation, by inducting Gujarati leaders. Does this show that they are nervous or will these inductions work against you?
Of course they are nervous. Shiv Sena is a sinking ship and they have realised this. That's why they have made frantic attempts to bring everyone on to their side. They have used the Marathi issue and exploited the Marathi voters and people have woken up to this. That's why so many Marathi corporators and leaders have left them and come to us. We have a clear vision of development that we want to implement.

Is the alliance break just a poll strategy and will we see a Kalyan Municipal Corporation-like post election tie-up?
There is no chance. We are confident of wining the BMC election. The next mayor will be from the BJP. Citizens want change and are tired of the poor services, and that's why they will choose us. Our vision of development and turning Mumbai into a smart city will bring us to power.

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