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Battle lines drawn for the BMC polls

Updated on: 28 March,2022 07:35 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis lay out templates for their respective party’s election campaign

Battle lines drawn for the BMC polls

Uddhav Thackeray. Pic/Ashish Raje

Dharmendra JoreA verbal battle between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his predecessor Devendra Fadnavis in the Budget session turned out to be templates for their respective party’s campaign for the Mumbai civic polls. Last week’s debate continued for several hours with the BJP legislators making charges of corruption and Shiv Sena members rebutting them. The debate resolved around the affairs of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), evidently because of the forthcoming elections that promise to be a direct fight between the former allies, who finished with almost the same numbers five years ago. The BJP aims to surpass the 2017 figure to deny the Sena power in the civic body, which the latter has been ruling for 25 years. Barring the past five years, the BJP was with the Sena as a small ruling partner before it fell a couple of seats short of the close rival in 2017.

There was a marked difference between the presentations by the BJP and the Sena. The former planned the attacks, distributing the issues to be raised aggressively between its members. Some BJP members from Mumbai, who have worked in the BMC before getting elevated to the Assembly, did not put their hammer down. Their former Sena colleagues in the BMC, who are now MLAs, were no less alert in responding, but lacked preparation and sharpness in counterattacking. The allies did not bother much to get into this, leaving Mumbai to the two major stakeholders. Thackeray’s response was criticised by the Opposition as an emotional speech rather than an answer to their serious charges. The criticism aside, Thackeray’s ‘barb-full’ speech was well received by the MVA, especially the Sena’s rank and file, which is expected to follow the template their chief has provided them with.

Much ado about...

As the session turned out to be more political than expected, the budgetary debates did not attract many eyeballs. The announcements, whether good or bad, were not noticed much. However, the issue of housing for the legislators, which isn’t new to the state legislature, became a talking point because it was assumed that the lawmakers would be given 300 flats in Mumbai at no cost. No such sop had been given in the past, though the legislators were given prime land on lease for constructing flat schemes with their own money. The legislators have also availed homes through the government housing schemes by paying for them. The beneficiaries include legislators, their staffers and affiliates, government officials, artistes, sports persons, journalists and people from literature background. Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad had to clarify that the MLAs will have to pay R1 crore each for the MHADA flats in Mumbai’s western suburbs, and that the flats/plots were not given free to anyone in the past. When a Congress MLA tweeted that he didn’t need a flat when thousands of people in his constituency were not getting homes, Awhad responded that the Bandra leader had 10 houses worth crores and the new scheme was only for the MLAs from rural Maharashtra.

A big shot to leave Cong?

Ahead of the BMC polls, the Mumbai Congress is abuzz with talk of a certain big shot in the civic body negotiating his entry into the BJP. The leader comes from the island city’s ward that shares boundaries with the suburbs. A long-time corporator, he is said to be unhappy with the party’s present condition. In the past, Rajhans Singh and Pravin Chheda were the two big leaders from the BMC politics to join the BJP. Devendra (Bala) Amberkar, former Opposition leader, joined the Sena. It is also learnt that some more sitting Congress corporators are on their way out.

Another talking point in the city Congress circles is the super power status of the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha constituency because top functionaries of the party’s city unit and frontal organisations come from here. It has inadvertently created a regional imbalance in representation, say party insiders. They wonder if it would lead to disappointment among leaders from the other parts ahead of the civic polls to be held this year. It is learnt that the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president Bhai Jagtap, MLA and city Youth Congress chief Zeeshan Siddique, Mumbai state NSUI president Pradyum Yadav and Anisha Bagul, who was appointed president of the city women’s wing last week, are from the North Central constituency. Not just the city unit, but some top shots, including Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) working president Arief Naseem Khan, state treasurer Dr Amarjit Manhas and state general secretary Zakir Ahmad, also belong to North Central, which is one of the six district units having six Assembly segments each.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore

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