Saying that they were put off by comments from certain Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Shiv Sena leaders who are in charge of negotiating the seat-sharing agreement with the BJP for the Mumbai civic polls, have decided to halt talks and not engage in any further conversation with the party.
Senior Sena leaders Anil Desai, Anil Parab and Ravindra Mirlekar, in charge of hammering out a deal for their party, have decided to leave further decision making regarding any pre-poll alliance to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Mirlekar, a former Sena legislator, said, “BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has once again made certain statements yesterday (Thursday) that left us disgruntled. On one side, the BJP is in seat-sharing talks with us and on the other, it is not even controlling what some of its senior leaders are saying. As far as the three of us are concerned, we have decided to not go for any further talks and leave the decision of the next step to our party chief.”
Speaking to Marathi television channel IBN Lokmat on Thursday, Somaiya trained guns directly on Thackeray and his family, questioning how long Mumbai would tolerate the rule of a single family and party. In the same breath, he called for a civic body free of ‘mafia raj.’ Over the past few months, Somaiya has been vociferous in his criticism of the Sena, alleging massive corruption in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), also stating that the BJP will have its candidates in all of Mumbai’s 227 wards.
While leaders at the ground level from both parties prefer going their separate ways, the top Sena leadership as well as the BJP, has been keen on an alliance to ensure a comfortable victory, as the Sena and the BJP would otherwise be each other’s biggest threats.
The parties started seat-sharing discussions on Monday, and after two initial rounds of meetings, decided to exchange their wish-lists of wards and meet for further discussion post that. With the BMC election scheduled on February 21, both parties set a January 21 deadline to wrap up talks.
The BJP is keen on contesting 114 seats this time, up from the 63 it contested in 2012, buoyed by its success in the 2014 Assembly election, where the party swept the city, winning one seat more than the Shiv Sena. The BJP’s wish-list includes wards that currently have Sena corporators but fall in constituencies that were clinched by the BJP in the 2014 polls, making the Sena wary.
A senior Sena leader said, “There are no talks scheduled today, and even if the BJP calls us, after Somaiya’s remarks yesterday, our leaders won’t go.”
However, while the Shiv Sena is peeved with the acerbic comments from its ally, the party itself has continued its attacks on the BJP. Even after seat-sharing talks started, the Sena criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move on demonetisation, saying it was like a nuclear attack that has turned the country into Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Friday, it took another jibe at the BJP, taunting it for inducting people with criminal records with an eye on winning elections.