A day after the Shiv Sena broke up with its 25-year-old ally ahead of the Mumbai civic polls, all eyes are now on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who will address the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) show-of-strength rally in the city on Saturday.
Fadnavis’ speech to party cadre is expected to set the tone for the upcoming poll battle that is likely to get played out as chief minister versus Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
The chief minister has already signalled the BJP’s poll plank for the elections will be transparency and anti-corruption. The plank, in itself, is seen as targeting ally Sena, which has controlled the country’s richest civic body for the past 20 years. It remains to be seen whether Fadnavis, who was keen on an alliance to ensure stability of his government, will directly attack the Sena over corruption.
“Our list of 227 candidates will get finalised by the Mumbai city chief after it gets a go-ahead from Fadnavis and state president Raosaheb Danve. The nominations will be filed from January 31 or February 1. The most important step now is the rally, where Fadnavis will set the ground for the electoral battle, where the Sena will be our main contender,’’ said a senior BJP functionary.
There are indications of grand mud-slinging between the two former allies, with BJP MP Kirit Somaiya saying there should be a black paper on corruption in the civic body that has left the country’s financial capital with shoddy roads and amenities for years.
For now, the Sena that took the gloves off on the alliance clarified it will not pull out of the state government for the sake of stability. Sanjay Raut, Sena MP and one of BJP’s bitter critics, said his party would continue to stay in the government.
The Sena’s 63 legislators give the BJP the much-needed stability in the 288-member house, as the BJP is short of clear majority with its 122 legislators.
Without the saffron alliance, both the ruling partners are likely to find the going more tough in the Mumbai civic body, other cities and especially in the 25 district councils that administer rural areas.
The results of the zilla parishad polls will give a referendum on the effect of the demonetisation decision of the Centre, with the Sena expected to aggressively target ally BJP on the same along with the Opposition.