Days before the mayoral elections, the Shiv Sena’s problems have been compounded with the Congress’ move to rope in Sena rival, Narayan Rane, to handle the elections.
Fifteen to 18 of 81 Sena corporators did not attend the meeting called by Sena chief Bal Thackeray at Sena Bhavan on Friday evening, raising speculations of a rebellion in the party.
Among those who skipped the meeting were mayoral aspirants Snehal Jadhav and Subhada Gudekar.
The Sena is in a dilemma as it has a wafer-thin majority in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and any rebellion would rob it of the post of mayor. The Sena’s credibility has already taken a severe beating in the last two polls with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena performing better than it.
The Sena also fears former Sainik-turned-Congress minister Rane can upset its applecart by fielding protégé, Priscila Kadam as the opposition candidate. The Sena has fielded Shraddha Jadhav.
The Sena, however, played down the crisis. “Many [corporators] may have gone out of station, fallen sick or may have not been informed of the meeting,” said Sena leader Manohar Joshi.
The election to the mayor’s post, scheduled for December 1, is now poised to be a contest between the Sena and Rane. Friday’s developments assume significance, as political circles are already abuzz with talk that Rane was likely to engineer a split in Sena’s civic team.
The ruling Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine along with its supporters—Arun Gawli-led Akhil Bhartiya Sena (ABS) and three independents--have a slim majority with 115 members while the opposition comprising the Congress, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and others have 109.
A candidate needs 113 votes to win the mayoral election. The saffron combine is on a sticky wicket as a section of its corporators are wary of their future with the advent of the MNS.
The ABS, on the other hand, backed a Congress candidate in the Lok Sabha polls.
Rane could hit the Sena hard because he has the resources and also knows how the Sena’s top brass functions. The Congress trusts Rane to wrest control of one of India’s biggest and richest municipal corporations—the BMC has annual budget of Rs 19,000 crore--from the Sena.
Both candidates, Jadhav and Kadam, filed their nominations on Friday. The BJP has fielded Shailaja Girkar while the Nationalist Congress Party has fielded Vidya Chavan for the deputy mayor’s post.