In an indirect attack on ally Shiv Sena, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday criticised corruption in Mumbai’s civic body. The CM said there was a need to improve how the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) functions.
Fadnavis, speaking informally to media persons on the last day of the state legislature’s winter session, also said an alliance with the Sena was possible only if the party acknowledged the BJP has gained strength politically.
Fadnavis’ remarks are an indication the BJP wants to team up with the Sena ahead of the crucial Mumbai civic polls in February 2017, but only if it works out in its favour; and also that the Sena should not take its partner for granted. Fadnavis’ newfound aggression comes after the BJP’s victory in the first two phases of the civic polls.
The BJP has been repeatedly slamming its ally, holding it responsible for scams even though it is a partner in the ruling alliance of the civic body. “Scams of hundreds of crores in Mumbai’s civic body have come to light. There is no transparency. There is a need to monitor its functioning and bring in transparency,” Fadnavis said.
Over the past year, probes into road works and storm water drains desilting scams have been underway, largely after the BJP’s city unit aggressively campaigned for such investigations.
Fadnavis took the example of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) that he heads to point out the use of funds by the authority, and by the BMC. The MMRDA has a budget of Rs4,000 crore, but is handling projects worth Rs70,000 crore; the BMC with a budget of Rs30,000 crore is building far fewer projects, he said.
When asked about an alliance, Fadnavis indicated the Sena would have to step down and concede more seats to the BJP. “The alliance is possible if the Sena acknowledges BJP gained strength since 2014. The BJP should get seats on the basis of its strength now. ”.
The seat-sharing formula agreed by the two parties in 2012 was tilted in favour of the Sena. After winning more Assembly seats (16) in the 2014 Mumbai elections than the Sena (15), the BJP wants a bigger share of the power pie. It has been preparing to contest on its own as the party leadership is keen to win power in the civic body that runs India’s financial capital.
The Sena is reluctant to concede seats to the BJP. This has led to friction between the two parties and its leaders have been constantly targeting each other.
Fadnavis said the government is also planning to make provision for directly elected mayors for smaller cities but ruled out such a decision in case of major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.