Two days before the mayoral election, in which the BJP voted for the Shiv Sena’s candidate, the party held an overnight training session for its newly elected corporators.
The training, at the RSS-linked Rambhau Prabhodini Mhalgi training and research institute at Bhayandar, gave the newly inducted councillors lessons on how to be more vigilant during the functioning of the Mumbai civic body, to usher in transparency in administration.
The BJP conducting a session for the 82 newly elected representatives is not new, but this time, its theme and timing was crucial. The workshop indicates exactly how the BJP will corner the Sena in the two years leading up to the 2019 Assembly polls. The councillors’ role was made clear: act as the opposition, while supporting the ruling party.
Among those who gave lessons to councillors were CM Devendra Fadnavis, city chief Ashish Shelar and senior accounting and auditing officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
The lessons included how to read budget documents and standing committee proposals, tips on how to recognise flawed tender documents and how to get work done at the ward level.
“There is a reason why we stayed away from all positions of power in the BMC, not just the mayor’s post. With our strength of corporators almost at a par with the Sena’s, in all important committees, especially the standing committee, we will play a crucial role. In any case of mischief, we will oppose the tender or contract and not allow it to be passed,’’ said a senior party leader and legislator who was at the session. “This will also force the Congress to oppose such proposals or explain how it is willing to compromise with the Sena.’’
The standing committee in the BMC had once been publicly dubbed as the “understanding committee”, by former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, pointing to the tacit understanding of councillors of all parties while handing out contracts for civic works. BJP, which has been a junior partner in the ruling alliance for the past 15 years, has an insider’s view and is best poised to take on the system and the Sena on its own turf.
The party’s strategy is to expose Sena’s mismanagement in the BMC, by blaming it for badly done work, pick on contracts and projects that reek of nexus and favouritism and build up an atmosphere against it in the run up to the 2019 Assembly polls.
The party indirectly started building the pressure on its ally in the state assembly just a day earlier, by calling for a special investigation team probe in the road scam. In the coming days, the party is likely to oppose the Sena on handing out of pre-monsoon and road works, among others.
“The CM, in his lecture to councillors, stressed on why the party had decided to take transparency as a political plank, pointing out that after the 2014 polls, it was clear the credibility of politicians and parties was at an all-time low. The Sena-BJP alliance worked on the Hindutva plank, but clearly that is no longer as relevant as development and anti-corruption,” said a BJP minister.
He added the party’s role in the BMC from now on would be with an eye on the 2019 elections and its potential tally in Mumbai in those polls.
The BJP’s support to the Sena in the mayoral elections is then, just the calm before the storm.