A show-of-hands elections will choose the mayor of the country’s richest civic body on March 8 and end the months-long battle between the Shiv Sena and BJP for control of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
A week ago, the city threw up a split mandate for the squabbling former allies — the Sena won 84 votes, the BJP, 82 — giving neither party full control of the civic body. This means the party whose mayor gets elected will effectively rule Mumbai for the next five years.
Civic chief Ajoy Mehta finalised the date for the election, after the law department said the new general body of corporators should be formed before, or on the day, the term of the existing corporators ends — March 8.
Nearly a week after the results were announced, there are no signs of the Sena and BJP working together again. The election for the mayor’s post is set to be yet another contest of one-upmanship between the allies-turned-rivals.
The Sena was hoping that the polls will be held on March 9, a day after the last phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls; the BJP was rooting for March 8.
With 31 corporators, the Congress’ role in these elections is crucial. The Sena was wanted the elections after the UP polls to get the Congress’ active support (without worry about its backlash on UP’s minority vote bank).
The municipal secretary, Narayan Pathade, said, “The election will be held on March 8 at noon in the BMC headquarters.”
The elected corporatorswill be asked to choose the mayor by a show of hands. The corporators will also verbally announce their vote and put their signature for the candidate they want. The entire process will be recorded.
Sources said the Sena, BJP and the Congress will fill nomination forms for the mayor’s and deputy mayor’s positions. And, the suspense over the role the saffron allies and the Congress in play in getting the new mayor elected may continue until the very last minute, as candidates can withdraw nominations from even during the meeting.
“Once the current mayor (Snehal Ambekar) starts the meeting, there is a 15-minute time period given to each candidate to take back their candidature,” said a senior civic official.
If the Congress actively supports Sena’s bid, the latter can comfortably get its candidate elected and keep the BJP out of power completely. But this option seems difficult given the split in the Congress about supporting Sena.
If Congress abstains from voting or puts up its own candidate, the role of smaller parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will become crucial
Sena and BJP had contested the polls independently to wrest control of the Mumbai civic body single-handedly. The Sena also has support from four independent corporators, which takes their figure from 84 to 88. The Sena is also relieved that the NCP has decided not to support the BJP and the MNS is hinting at supporting Sena.
There is also speculation that the party is hoping for a post poll tie up with Sena but such an agreement will not be done only on latter’s terms. In a worse case scenario, BJP may opt to give outside support to Sena in BMC even as it slams their working and ups ante on corruption in the civic body, to create a favourable atmosphere for it ahead of 2019 polls.