It was chaos across the city as major political parties scrambled to placate rebels who threatened to contest against their official candidates on the last day of filing nomination forms for the February 21 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. At the same time, parties were also zeroing in on their ‘winnable’ candidates — the ones they felt would win as idealogies took a back seat.
For the first time since its formation in 1966, the Shiv Sena faced a large-scale rebellion in the case of mayor Snehal Ambekar that forced its chief, Uddhav Thackeray, to personally intervene from his Bandra residence, Matoshree.
Ambekar delayed filing her nomination by about five hours as dissent built up against her. Ambekar was opposed by local Shiv Sena workers of Worli ward no. 198 on the grounds that she was an outsider and locals need to be considered.
However, Thackeray persuaded the workers to campaign for Ambekar. “We were told that it’s a prestigious fight and we need to get the mayor elected again,” said a Sena worker.
Ambekar, after filing her nomination, warned the rebels to fall in line. “If the rebels do not improve, our Sainiks will deal with them in our style,” said Ambekar.
In the neighbouring ward, another Sena candidate, Kishori Pednekar, also faced a rebellion. Even this was quelled successfully after the intervention of top Sena leaders.
Another former mayor, Shraddha Jadhav, was in for a huge shock in the Parel area as two active Sena workers filed forms as independent candidates.
Another Sena stronghold, the Dadar-Mahim belt, also faced rebellion. Former Sena strongman Mahesh Sawant filed his nomination from Prabhadevi and so did Rohita Thakur from Mahim. Both accused vested local interests of trying to harm the Sena by neglecting loyal workers.
The BJP also faced lot of issues as it tried to convince its rebels. Former BJP corporator Janak Sanghvi, once a close aide of MLA Raj Purohit, filed his nomination from Bhuleshwar on a Congress ticket against Purohit’s son Aakash. “Despite Narendra Modi’s diktat, the BJP leaders are fielding their sons. I am protesting against it,” said Sanghvi.
There were last-minute changes in their Goregaon list as former deputy mayor Dilip Patel was accommodated at the last minute in ward no. 58 from Goregaon. For this, BJP had to cancel the ticket given to former Congress corporator Samir Desai, who happens to be nephew of senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat.
Samir’s wife Rajul, who is also contesting, was adjusted to ward no 56. However, Megha Chavan whose name was announced earlier was according to sources, angered and hence, she filed as an independent. “We are trying to convince her to withdraw,” said Desai.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Raju Waghmare’s sister-in-law Suvarna Waghmare filed the form from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) from Naiguam. “I tried to convince her, but she was not ready to listen as she feels we are being ignored deliberately by the Congress for years despite being loyal workers” said Waghmare.
Political experts point to growing aspirations among political workers as the main cause. “It is no longer a case of my leader must take notice of me as everyone is in a hurry to grab power,” said B Venkatesh Kumar, political expert. “The cadre-based discipline is no longer a norm and workers are ready to break this discipline to grab power,” he added.
Meanwhile, the BJP had to deal with ally trouble as the Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (RPI) filed forms for approximately 60 seats across the city. This was done as seat-adjustments talks were on till the last moment and concluded just two hours before the closing time.
Finally, RPI chief Athawale agreed to take 25 seats. According to Raju Mohite, secretary, RPI, the BJP has been insincere. “Despite working so hard as an ally, the BJP takes us for granted,” said Mohite. Mohite’s sister-in-law Pranali has filed her nomination from Naiguam. Apart from RPI, the BJP has left five seats for the Swabhimaan Shetkari Sanghatana and four for Shiv Sangram. To placate Athawale, BJP announced his party will be given the deputy mayor’s post if BJP comes to power in the BMC.