To stay friends with the Shiv Sena or to ditch its ally ahead of the 2017 civic elections, dubbed as the mini Assembly polls, is the big question before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it heads for its state executive meeting over two days from April 2 to 4 at Nashik.
Officially the state executive is to place on record and pass fresh tenure for state party president, Raosaheb Danve, but party sources said that next year’s elections to nine civic corporations, 15 municipal councils, 29 zila parishads and the party’s preparations for these will be the focus at the meet.
While the elections to the richest civic body, Mumbai, is crucial, eight other cities — Pune, Thane, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Nagpur, Solapur, Amravati — will also be going to the polls next year, determining the mandate of the people in the urban areas of the state.
The subtext at the meeting will be uneasy alliance with the Shiv Sena in the light of the latter hardening its stance against its ally again, over a wide range of issues from Ganesh Pandey sexual harassment case to Uttarakhand politics. In Pune and Nashik, preliminary indications are that the parties will fight these civic polls separately.
“Sena’s calculation is that there is anti-incumbency against us and they stand to gain from this. That’s the reason they have hardened their stance against us even as the state legislature is in session. It is also preparing the ground for the 2017 polls. We will also have to do the same. The way things are going, it looks difficult for us to contest these elections together,” said a senior party functionary.
The opinion is split within the BJP on whether it can afford to go solo in a city like Mumbai, where Sena continues to hold sway.
“My opinion is that going solo may not work in our advantage in Mumbai though we should work for a better seat-sharing formula like a 60:40 if not a straight 50:50,” said a senior BJP minister. He, however, added that the crux at the state executive would be to ensure that party organisation works in tandem with the government to reach out to as many people as possible.
“We need to present our government’s decisions in a better way and not lose out on the battle of perception. Here the role of the party organisation will be crucial,” he added.
The worry for the BJP is also whether the government can withstand such a split ahead of the crucial BMC polls, as it will lead to bitter campaigning where allies will take roles as main opponents. After all, if a split ahead of the civic polls leads to fall of the government, it may not be worth the gamble.