Even as nominations to the Mumbai mayor’s post are just a day away, the saffron allies-turned-rivals did not make any move to initiate dialogue for a possible alliance in the civic body.
The silence between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, who got a split mandate in the recently concluded civic polls, could signal a close contest for the top job in the BMC. The party, which gets its mayor elected, will effectively have an upper hand and control the civic body.
The mayoral elections are slated on March 8.
The BJP camp, which has been in wait-and-watch mode , began making moves to bolster its seat tally.
The party is expected to go to the Konkan divisional commissioner’s office with its 82 corporators on Friday to register them as a group, to avoid any last-minute defections. It will also hold a meeting of its steering committee on Friday afternoon to decide the party’s strategy in the BMC.
The Sena, in the meanwhile, continued its attack on the BJP through its mouthpiece, Saamna, taunting it on the ongoing ‘nationalism’ debate and indicating it was unlikely to blink first and seek a tie up.
The editorial taunted the BJP for defining patriotism according to its convenience, pointing out that the party had remained silent when it’s legislator called army wives unfaithful.
The close contest in BMC saw the Sena win 84 seats and the BJP 82. With no party emerging as a clear winner, the tug of war is over upmanship in the BMC with the Sena is already enlisting support of four independents taking its tally to 88 seats.
Now, both the Sena and the BJP have approached the Akhil Bharatiya Sena’s lone corporator, Geeta Gawli, daughter of don-turned-politician Arun Gawli, for support. So far, the ABS had supported the Sena in the BMC.
The BJP, it is learnt, also contacted the fifth independent corporator, Mumtaz Rehbar Khan, who has so far not sided with the Sena, for support.
“I have not made up my mind about supporting either the Sena or the BJP yet. Uddhavsaheb called me and I went to meet him out of respect. However, the meeting was cut short as he had to leave for Kolhapur. I met with senior party leaders Anil Desai and Eknath Shinde,” said Gawli.
She said she was likely to meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis late on Thursday night to discuss the issue with him and other BJP leaders.
Sources in BJP, however, said the strategy in the BMC is it to get finalised with Fadnavis still holding cards close to his chest.
“On Friday, we will have to finalise whether we are putting up a mayoral candidate and who it can be. Since withdrawal of the mayoral candidate can be done right on the day of the proposed election, there is still time to finalise what our final role will be in the BMC,” said a senior BJP leader.
He said the party had to weigh its options carefully as antagonising the Sena by taking the mayor’s post away from it may have repercussions on the state government’s stability.
The party may. however, look at opening back channel talks with the Sena ahead of the mayoral election. If it is serious about contesting mayor’s election, the party will have to enlist support of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). With MNS’ seven corporators, one independent and Gawli, BJP ‘s tally will go to 91.
In such a scenario, the MNS’ plays is important. At the same time, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with nine corporators has unofficially indicated it will support Sena mayor if MNS supports BJP.
Meanwhile, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray skipped BJP state chief Raosaheb Danve’s son’s wedding in Aurangabad on Thursday. While party leaders said his absence at the wedding was not intentional, it is being seen as a bid to keep pressure on the BJP. Thackeray chose to go to Kolhapur to attend a wedding in the family of Sena legislator Rajesh Kshirsagar.