Just hours before the state election commission announced the dates for the upcoming civic elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it would hold talks with its ally Shiv Sena for an alliance for the local body polls, including the highly-contested Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The party’s city chief and a bitter critic of the Sena, Ashish Shelar, made the announcement saying his party was positive about an alliance after a meeting at Varsha, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ official residence at Malabar Hill.
HT had reported on Wednesday that such a meeting would be held at Varsha and BJP would say it will hold talks for an alliance.
Given the timing of the announcement and the backdrop of the constant tussle between the allies, the big question of whether the alliance can materialise remains. What, however, may work in favour of the alliance is that both Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray seem inclined for a tie-up and are in touch with each another.
“After the Sena chief publicly asked for our stance on alliance, a decision was taken. The BJP is positive about an alliance and talks will be initiated from today,” said Shelar.
In a jibe at the Sena, he, however, said more than the numbers, his party was keen on an agenda that prioritised transparent administration in the BMC.
In respons, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said he was also ‘positive’ about an alliance, but there was a gap between holding talks and having an alliance. He refused to respond to Shelar’s jibe, saying he would respond when BJP president Amit Shah or chief minister Devendra Fadnavis made a remark. He also said a tie-up for district council polls would be taken by the local party units concerned.
“So far, we have not received any proposal from the BJP. There is a likelihood that talks will start from today. Three leaders from both sides will discuss, but the final decision will be taken by Fadnavis and me,” said Thackeray.
Until late on Wednesday night, there was no clarity on who would hold the initial round of talks. More clarity is expected on Thursday, when the BJP holds its one-day state conclave meeting in Thane.
However, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve in a turnaround from the earlier statement that local party units would take decision on alliance said if the party took a state-level decision of an alliance, the cadre would toe the line.
“I spoke to Sena MP Anil Desai after the meeting at Varsha. We are positive about an alliance. If the alliance takes into count the BJP’s increased electoral success post 2014 polls and is respectable, a tie-up is possible,” said Danve.