Mumbai: Is Shiv Sena losing hold over BMC?

Updated: Nov 01, 2019, 08:03 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

Analysis: Sena's weakening 20-yr hold over country's richest municipality is why it is not taking Fadnavis head on

Sena leaders at Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar after the announcement of assembly election results. File pic
Sena leaders at Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar after the announcement of assembly election results. File pic

It is not just state politics that seems to be at stake for the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, but also its weakening 20-year-old hold over India's richest civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). If a section of saffron camps' leaders is to be believed, the fear of losing control of BMC is what seems to be stopping Sena from playing hardball and staying away from BJP at the state-level.

The first litmus test will come on November 22 when elections for the post of Mumbai's Mayor are to be held. A BJP leader, speaking to mid-day on the condition of anonymity, categorically mentioned that his party genuinely wants the Sena to be a part of Devendra Fadnavis' sarkar version 2. However, expressing displeasure over Sena's nasty comments about their leader Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP leader questioned Matoshree's intention. "If at all Sena plans to do something different at the state level, will the party exhibit similar courage and prove its majority without an alliance partner's support in the BMC?" the leader quipped.

In 2017 civic elections, Sena emerged as the single-largest party but was way short of the majority of 114 seats needed to claim power in the 227-seat-strong BMC. Sena won 84 seats and BJP came a close second with 82 seats. The Congress bagged 31 seats and NCP, nine. Whereas, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) won seven seats. With independents extending their support to Sena and six MNS corporators defecting to the Uddhav Thackeray camp, the total tally of the party in BMC stands at 94.

However, despite contesting civic elections separately, after the results, the BJP decided to extend outside support to its ally at the state level and helped it come to power in the BMC. Further speaking on the issue, the leader added, "Sena is a part of the government at the Centre. Here in Mumbai, BJP is supporting Sena. But if Sena still wishes to go ahead and do something different at the state level, they shouldn't expect cooperation from the BJP in BMC," the leader said, clearly indicating BJP's strategy of tit-for-tat in the current deadlock over the formation of a government.

Sena has been controlling BMC for over two decades and is well aware that if it takes any adverse steps at the state level, it could certainly upset the saffron alliance at the BMC. No wonder Sena is taking time to decide on whether to acquiesce and take BJP's offer or continue its rebellion and demand a 50:50 formula, which includes the coveted chief minister's post.

In fact, on Thursday, after a meeting with its newly-elected MLAs at Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar, neither party chief Thackeray nor the party members addressed the media regarding the power-sharing talks. Former chief minister Manohar Joshi, party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe and leader Anil Parab answered a few general queries but dodged questions on government formation and the status of talks with the BJP. The only answer they gave was that Thackeray will speak on the matter.

Meanwhile, another senior Sena leader speaking to mid-day admitted that the party is weighing all pros and cons. "Uddhavji is having consultations with senior leaders to assess the situation and the options available." The current deadlock is a result of not even a single party getting the required majority, with the BJP getting 105 seats and ally Sena getting 56 seats — making both the parties dependent on each other. On the face of it, Sena has been making demands, but BJP is well aware of its weak point — BMC — and is digging in its heels.

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