The upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections are likely to be multi-cornered. Reason: The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday said they would be going solo.
Going a step ahead, the NCP even declared its first list of 45 candidates, showing that it will not wait for alliance talks with the Congress or other like-minded parties. The party also said it will declare the rest of the candidates by next month. In response, the Mumbai Congress said it had no plans to forge an alliance with the NCP.
The decision of the two erstwhile alliance partners, who ran the state government together for 15 years, could lead to a division of their votes because both have an anti-BJP, anti-Shiv Sena voter base.
The development could also trigger a demand within the BJP to contest on its own because a divided opposition may be its best chance to win without an alliance with the Sena.
While declaring the names, Mumbai NCP president Sachin Ahir said they were keen to have an alliance, but reluctance by Congress leaders led them to take this decision.
The Congress, too, announced its intention to go solo in Mumbai. Sanjay Nirupam, city unit chief of the Congress, said his party had already announced it was not interested in joining hands with the NCP. “We announced this two months ago after taking permission from our high command. The party leadership had left it to us to decide on the alliance. Our local leaders and workers were in favour of going solo in the civic elections,” Nirupam said.
The party leadership feels going solo in the BMC election will help the Congress perform better in the election.
“While in the Opposition and with the constraint on resources, it is always better to go without an alliance because it helps the party give opportunities to workers at the local level. We have been concentrating on picking the best possible candidates from the wards and have started discussing probables,” another leader from the Congress said.
It remains to be seen whether the two parties take a similar decision with respect to the civic elections in 10 cities and Zilla Parishads (district councils) across the state. Both the parties have power in a majority of ZPs that play important role in rural politics. The NCP is also in power in the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies. If the two parties contest separately in the entire state, it may turn out to be an advantage for the ruling parties, especially the BJP.
Meanwhile, the NCP said it would contest in Mumbai only according to its strength.
“We have decided to contest on only those seats where either party is in the strong position or where our candidate is strong enough to contest polls,” Ahir said, when asked about the number of seats the NCP will contest in the elections. He, however, clarified that the party can make changes in the list if it gets better candidates. The NCP will also leave a few seats to accommodate candidates from other parties, Ahir said.
In the 2012 polls, both the Congress and the NCP contested the BMC elections together and had won 65 seats (Congress-52 and NCP-13) of the total 227 seats. Interestingly, in 2007, too, both the parties had contested the BMC elections separately and had got 89 seats — Congress-75 and NCP-14) — which is 24 seats more than the 2012 poll results.