Even as the alliance talks between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are on, the parties have started preparing to go solo in the civic polls to be held on February 21.
If the alliance fails, the main poll battle will be fought between the saffron allies. It will also be the first time in 15 years that the parties will contest all 227 seats independently. Keeping this in mind, both parties have been poaching sitting corporators and this is likely to intensify.
About 13 sitting civic corporators have left their parties to join the Shiv Sena and BJP. The Sena has inducted eight of these, two of whom — Congress corporators Yogesh Bhoir from Kandivli (East) and Bhomsingh Rathod from Malad (East) — joined the party formally, at Matoshree on Monday.
The BJP claims it could hijack as many as 20 sitting councillors, while Sena sources said they are in touch with six to seven corporators.
“We are focussing on winning the mayor’s seat, irrespective of the alliance. We expect about 20 sitting corporators to join our party soon,” said a senior BJP leader.
BJP sources told HT that leaders have started asking popular and ‘winnable’ local leaders from other parties to join the party.
“We have not contested more than 65 seats in the BMC polls. We played a smaller part so far. If the alliance does not work out, we will have to put up strong candidates for at least 115 seats. Even otherwise, if we want the mayor’s seat, then we need to do better than the Sena. Party leadership said we should identify strong candidates from other parties and woo them,’’ said a senior party functionary.
Speculation is rife that top Congress and NCP leaders such as Pravin Chheda, Devendra Amberkar and Dhananjay Pisal are likely to be approached by the BJP. However, they have not confirmed this.
While the Congress has lost four of its corporators, five Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and three NCP corporators also switched loyalties and joined the ruling partners. These include, Sandhya Doshi from the NCP and Ishwar Tayade, Suresh Avale and Geeta Chavan from the MNS who joined the Sena last year. Prakash Darekar and Sukhada Pawar from the MNS, Kesarben Mehta and Sagar Thakur from the Congress joined BJP. Even BJP MLA Parag Alavani’s wife Jyoti Alavani — who had contested as an independent candidate during the 2012 election — has now joined the party.
According to highly-placed civic sources, three NCP and three MNS corporators are likely to join the Sena. “We are expecting six corporators to join our party soon. Two women and one man from the MNS will join us by next week,” said a senior Sena member.