While it was the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) aim to take control of the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Sunday said that surveys showed that his ally, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) was poised to get more seats in the upcoming BMC election.
Speaking in Nagpur during a two-day NCP conclave, Mr. Pawar, the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly said there was “a sympathy” for the Sena (UBT) faction in Mumbai city due to the manner in which former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government (of the NCP, the Congress and Mr. Thackeray’s Sena faction) was toppled after the present CM and ‘rebel’ Sena leader Eknath Shinde’s intra-party revolt in June last year.
Trying too hard
“It has been the BJP’s dream for many years to come to power in the BMC. Everyone knows that when the [undivided] Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray took control of the BMC decades ago, it was only then that the party began to expand in the Konkan region and other parts of Maharashtra. Moreover, the BMC has a budget greater than that of many states in the country. But, there is sympathy for the [Thackeray-led] Shiv Sena in Mumbai city because of the manner in which Uddhav Thackeray was deposed as CM last year. Even the surveys show more seats for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena (UBT),” said Mr. Pawar.
The NCP leader claimed that as the surveys pointed to more seats for Mr. Thackeray, the BJP’s top brass were straining every sinew to win the crucial poll.
“That is the reason why Central Ministers are coming to Mumbai. Even BJP national president J.P. Nadda visited the city recently,” he said.
The BMC, said to be the richest civic body in Asia, has been the power-base of the Thackeray clan for over two decades now.
However, following Mr. Shinde’s intra-party revolt which was abetted by the BJP under Mr. Fadnavis, the new coalition is gunning for victory in the upcoming poll by ousting the Uddhav Thackeray faction.
While the Sena under the Thackerays has held absolute sway over the Mumbai civic body for two decades, the BJP — riding high on the ‘Narendra Modi wave’ — had rattled its former ally when it snared 82 of the total 227 seats in the 2017 BMC poll, second only to the Sena’s tally of 84 seats. (The Sena’s strength later increased to 97 with the support of independents and the defection of some corporators from the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena).
The BMC poll, pending for over a year, is said to be a dress rehearsal to determine the strengths of the Shinde and Thackeray camps as well as the ruling BJP-Shinde faction and the Opposition MVA ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.
Mr. Pawar said that while the NCP was not strong in Mumbai city, the party had proposed to Uddhav Thackeray about fighting jointly against the BJP-Shinde-led Sena faction.
“Mr. Thackeray has said he will mull over our proposal,” the NCP leader said.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s Mumbai leadership held a meeting on Saturday night at Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis’ residence regarding the BMC poll, said sources.
BJP Mumbai city president Ashish Shelar said the ruling alliance aimed to win at least 150 of the 227 seats of the cash-rich civic body. According to sources, the BMC election could take place in October.
“It has been the BJP’s dream for many years to come to power in the BMC”Ajit PawarNationalist Congress Party leader