The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) decision to stay away from the mayoral contest and support the Shiv Sena, without sharing power, is likely to come at the cost of the city’s governance.
The party’s moral high ground points to a tactical decision, one that will allow it to give issue-based support to the Shiv Sena’s minority government in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and also allow it to challenge any policy, proposal or financial decision moved by the Sena, on the grounds of transparency.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated as much when he said on Saturday.
“We got a mandate on the plank of transparency and honouring this, we will work as watchdogs of transparent governance. All our corporators will work as soldiers of transparency in the BMC.
In a clear signal that his government will keep a strict vigil over the running of the BMC, he added that a three-member committee of senior bureaucrats, including Ramanath Jha, Gautam Chatterjee and Sharad Kale would be set up to make the working of the BMC more transparent.
Fadnavis also said an Upa (deputy) Lokayukta would be appointed, as promised in the BJP’s manifesto, solely for Mumbai. As an anti-corruption ombudsman, the Upa Lokayukta will receive complaints from people against civic officials and corporators.
“In the run up to the civic election over the past year, the BJP and Sena have consistently faced off in the BMC, often taking contradictory stances on policies,from open spaces to parking. In the current situation, this is only likely to worsen. It will have an impact on the decision making in the BMC and possibly stall policies and projects,’’ said a senior official.
In the next few months, there are likely to be tussles over open spaces policy and the Development Plan. Tenders for road works, desilting and pre-monsoon work could get caught up in this bickering. And, there could be a tussle over taking credit for policies, such as a 24/7 Mumbai and projects like the coastal road.
While Sena will try to make BJP’s role in the city’s governance inconsequential, the latter will hit back with the Fadnavis-led urban development department tightening its role in the BMC.
And, when BJP attacks Sena in BMC, the latter will retaliate by attacking the state.
A senior Shiv Sena leader said, “For now, the chief minister has realised that not challenging the Shiv Sena in the BMC is beneficial to him and we are happy about that. If the BJP had created hurdles for the election of a Sena mayor, the strain would have spilled over to the state government too. Going forward, there will be constant fights, and the BJP will try to rake up the issue of transparency in every possible situation. But we will remind them how much needs to be done in the state too.”
In this scenario, it is likely that the Sena will have ensure floor management for every big decision sometimes wooing the opposition parties like Congress, NCP and MNS to back it more than its ally.
In many ways, the BJP will act in the BMC as the Sena does in the state government even as it shares power. The party will occupy opposition space even while it officially maintains that it is supporting the Sena.
“Instead of setting up our mayor or government by taking help of other parties, the core committee of the BJP decided in favour of stability and the common man. If Sena takes decision in public interest and welfare, they will have our complete support. But, wherever there is a mistake especially over issues of transparency, we will ensure that Sena will have to change their decision,’’ said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
The mayoral contest is now as good as over, with Sena mayor all set to be appointed on March 8. But, the real contest of upmanship between the saffron allies has just began.