With less than 10 days to go for the mayoral election in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena is taking steps to consolidate its position as the party with maximum strength in the House to get the city’s next mayor elected and also to ensure that no defections happen, especially of the independents who have vowed to support the party. On the other hand, the BJP has still not opened its cards, although some developments are expected after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ visit to Delhi on Tuesday.
The Sena’s 84 corporators and four independents supporting it visited the Konkan Divisional Commissioner’s office and registered themselves as a group to secure the party’s strength and avoid last-minute defections.
A senior Sena leader said, “This will ensure that even the independents are associates of the Sena and none of them will back out at the eleventh hour when it comes to supporting our mayoral candidate. If they do back out, they face suspension as corporators.” Under the rules, independents can’t change sides once they become associate members of a particular party. With the Sena enrolling four independents as its associate members, the BJP will have less scope for any manoeuvers in the civic house. The two parties are locked in a power tussle with the Sena winning 84 out of 227 seats with the BJP coming a close second with 82. Either party will require a strength of 114 or secure maximum votes in the mayoral election to win power in the civic body.
The Sena also appointed senior corporator Yashwant Jadhav, a party member for nearly four decades, as its group head in the BMC.
Ever since results to the BMC election were announced on Thursday last week, the Sena has been scrambling to bolster its presence in the civic body and ensure it gets its mayor elected by reaching out to the five independent corporators, Congress and other smaller parties. Sources said this could also be an attempt to drive a hard bargain with the BJP, as the Sena is not keen on sharing the mayoral position with the latter, even in case of a tie-up in the BMC.
The Congress leadership has been divided over the party’s course of action, making the possibility of a Sena and a Congress tie-up bleak. However, the party’s leaders have also been considering propping up its own mayoral candidate. Such a scenario will indirectly help the Sena by reducing the number required to get its mayor elected.
The Sena’s leaders are also breathing easy given that the MNS has signalled that its position will benefit ‘Marathi manoos’ and the NCP has said it will not help the BJP.
“We currently have 88 votes with the support of independent candidates, while the BJP has 82. The NCP and MNS may either abstain or perhaps vote in our favour, but not the BJP’s. The MNS says it will support the Marathi population. The BJP got its votes not from the city’s Marathi population, but the Gujaratis and North Indians. Even if the Congress puts up its mayoral candidate and other parties side with it, we will still have the highest numbers to get our mayor elected,” a senior Sena leader said.
The Congress has 31 corporators, while the MNS and the NCP have a tally of seven and nine, respectively. Besides, the Samajwadi Party, which has rejected the option of supporting either of the saffron parties, has six corporators, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has two and the Akhil Bharatiya Sena has one.
The Sena, which has been at the helm of the BMC for nearly two decades, fought independently in the civic polls, without an alliance with the BJP, for the first time since 1997. While both parties led a shrill acrimonious campaign with both confident of getting a thumping majority in the BMC, the Sena and the BJP ended up neck-and-neck with the former having 84 seats and the latter 82. This was the first election in the Mumbai civic body in the past 25 years that any party came this close to the Sena, which derives its political strength from the city.