Even as the suspense over a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for the upcoming Mumbai civic polls and other municipal corporations and district council elections continued on Tuesday, CM Devendra Fadnavis has indicated that he is in favour of an alliance. The elections to 10 municipal corporations and 26 district councils are likely to be announced anytime this week.
Fadnavis, in a late night huddle with a few of ministers, said he was in favour of a saffron alliance to ensure that BJP retained its numero uno rank in the second phase of polls after the municipal council elections. There is likely to be a meeting at Varsha, the CM’s residence, on Wednesday, to sort out issues with senior BJP leaders, after which talks will begin with Sena.
“We will have an alliance with Shiv Sena wherever possible. It may not work out everywhere, but talks will be held. There is no reason why it should not be possible even in Mumbai,” said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Sources said Fadnavis has convinced the party high command, especially after the successful innings in the recently concluded municipal council polls, that an alliance will work in favour of the BJP. In the upcoming polls, going by the 2012 results, BJP has its work cut out. It ranks last in terms of seats in the zilla parishads and has only two cities – Nagpur and Akola under its belt. Sena’s presence in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik is better and an alliance can help both the parties get more seats.
The constant tussle between the two parties and Sena’s criticism of demonetisation, however, may not be conducive to an amiable tie up.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray gave an ultimatum to the BJP asking it to spell out its stance on the alliance before the state election commission announced the polls. At the same time, he began interviewing aspiring candidates for the BMC polls, indicating that the party was willing to go solo.
His senior leaders, however, told HT that Thackeray had not ruled out alliance and the final decision would rest on seat sharing formula, offered by BJP. In Mumbai, BJP is keen on a 50: 50 seat sharing ratio but Sena is unwilling to concede to it.
The question of a saffron alliance in Mumbai is important because it could change the political dynamics for the polls. Right now, the Sena and the BJP are the main opponents in the poll battle for the country’s richest civic body. In the case of a tie-up, the battle will be between the saffron alliance and the Congress.
When HT asked Fadnavis about the possibility of a tie-up, he said it was possible but refused to elaborate further.
There is likely to be more clarity on January 12, when the BJP holds its one-day state conclave in Thane. There is a section of local leaders not happy with the possibility of tie up. “At BJP meetings, the CM says we have to have our mayor in the BMC. Is that possible with an alliance? A tie-up at this stage seems very unlikely at least for Mumbai,’’ said a senior BJP functionary. “Also, if we wanted an alliance, the serious talks over seat-sharing should have started by now. Such talks take at least a week of two. Even if we start now, we won’t be able to conclude them before the nomination process for the elections start.”
In this confusion over saffron alliance, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Tuesday further queered the pitch by indicating his party was open for an alliance if there was any such offer (from the BJP or the Sena). Raj’s offer is unlikely to be taken seriously by his cousin, who refused to even give an answer when asked. On the whole, the 26 district councils and 10 civic corporations polls dubbed as state mini assembly polls, can set the tone for the 2019 elections.