The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s city leadership on Wednesday upped the ante against its ally Shiv Sena, shrugging off Sena’s taunt daring the BJP to walk out of the alliance, and increased confusion among its own ranks regarding the alliance’s future.
BJP Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar vowed to intensify its protests against corruption in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which the Shiv Sena heads along with the BJP. He also extended full support to party MP Kirit Somaiya, who along with a handful of BJP leaders, was allegedly assaulted by Shiv Sena activists on Tuesday for organizing a Dussehra event to burn an effigy of “corruption mafia in the BMC” in Mulund.
Somaiya has been targeting ally Shiv Sena over corruption in the BMC, and has said his party will contest all 227 BMC seats by itself in the 2017 polls, a statement the state BJP leadership diplomatically disowned.
Shelar said, “Our stir will go on, and going forward, it will be even more severe. They [the Sena] have started this. We will finish it. We will give an eye for an eye in reply. We will not step back in our fight against corruption.”
Shelar also criticized Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for belittling India’s surgical strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, by reducing it to political wordplay.
Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe said Shelar cannot digest the fact that Thackeray praised and congratulated the PM for the surgical strike. “Who is the chief minister? Devendra Fadnavis or Ashish Shelar,” Gorhe retorted. She recounted allegations of corruption against the BJP, saying, “Lokayukta is currently investigating Shelar. He has still not got a clean chit yet. Besides him, Eknath Khadse is also being investigated. There is plenty of unrest over the chikki scam, scams in the education department and so on.”
A delegation of senior BJP leaders met Mumbai police commissioner Datta Padsalgikar on Wednesday, urging stringent and speedy action against Shiv Sena activists involved in the alleged assault on Somaiya and other BJP leaders. The delegation included most of Mumbai’s prominent BJP leaders such as Shelar, Prakash Mehta, Raj Purohit, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Gopal Shetty, Tamil Selvan, Manoj Kotak, and Bhalchandra Shirsat. The Navghar police arrested five Shiv Sena activists for the incident so far.
In his annual Dussehra speech at Shivaji Park on Tuesday, Thackeray had fired salvos at the BJP, daring it to walk out of its alliance with the Sena instead of back-stabbing and threatened to show how the Sena’s surgical strike can be. Shelar said, “These people should not talk about surgical strikes. One needs a broad 56-inch chest to execute it. People should not ridicule the surgical strike by making a child’s play out of it.”
The Sena and BJP have controlled the BMC in an alliance for 20 years, with the former having an upper hand. However, with the balance having tilted in the BJP’s favour at the state level, the party is aggressively looking to make inroads in Mumbai, the Sena’s home turf, raising questions over continuation of the alliance. Thackeray on Tuesday hinted at his willingness for an alliance for the 2017 civic polls, provided the Sena retains its advantage.
Meanwhile, contradictory statements about the alliance from within the BJP and the rise in skirmishes and animosity among the two parties in recent months have left the local BJP leaders confused over the party’s stand. “When Thackeray in his speech asked who the BJP’s leader is, considering the conflicting statements coming out from the party, he very correctly assessed the situation. No one really knows what is going on,” said a senior BJP Mumbai functionary, adding the two parties are greatly distanced from each other in the city.