The Shiv Sena on Thursday indicated it was ready to contest the Mumbai civic polls without its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party; the BJP has called it a bargaining tactic; and political observers said the scuffle will continue as both parties wait and watch each other’s moves.
In the past, poll negotiations between the saffron partners have gone on till the last few weeks. For the elections to the country’s richest civic body that both the Sena and BJP are fighting hard for, it is clear talks over an alliance will continue late into December, or even longer.
Party insiders from both the Sena and BJP admit the groundwork for the poll season in Maharashtra is just beginning. So both will see how they fare in the municipal council polls between November 2016 and January 2017, before finally taking a call on an alliance for Mumbai. The parties have not yet done a detailed ward-level analysis in Mumbai after the delimitation exercise — which redrew boundaries across the city. The results of this may influence the alliance decision. Sources in both parties said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and CM Devendra Fadnavis want to keep the window for a possible alliance in Mumbai open to minimise losses. “We will discuss the Sena’s decision — if they have indeed decided to go solo — with senior BJP leaders and take a call. We are in no rush,’’ said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
Sources close to the CM said so far the Sena had not said anything about ‘going solo’. A senior Sena minister told HT the party’s concern was the BJP will drag talks until the end like it did during the 2014 Assembly polls, and then break the alliance. “We want to be ready to contest polls alone, instead of being taken for a ride.”
Political observers said a lot depended on the next three months, as parties will get an idea of how the Maratha protests and OBC agitations will play out with voters. “At the end of the day, both Fadnavis and Thackeray want to keep the government alliance till 2019. If the ground level assessment is that it’s best for the saffron allies to stick together in district council polls and municipal corporations, they may be willing to work out a compromise for BMC too,” said a senior BJP minister. The BJP’s decision is also likely to be based on a ward-to-ward and community census assessment in Mumbai being done now by its city and state unit war rooms.
If the allies fight separately, a post-poll alliance in the BMC is considered the most probable option. Cadre on both sides are hoping for a clean split in Mumbai, but for now, the leaders are likely to continue with the tirade of allegations and ultimatums.