This could spell bad news for the Congress and be music to the ears of the Shiv Sena-BJP. The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is busy preparing to contest the upcoming civic polls in Mumbai on its own.
Speaking to the media, on Thursday, Pawar hinted that the alliance with Congress was uncertain. “I don’t know the mind of the Congress. We don’t want to divide secular votes but if the Congress wants to go solo in the elections, then we have the option of contesting all seats,” Pawar said.
Sources told HT that Pawar told party members to be prepared to contest all 227 seats of the BMC as indications from the Congress are against an alliance.
If this happens, the Sena-BJP will find it a little less difficult to retain their hold over the BMC. The saffron camp feels the NCP will eat into the vote bank of the Congress, which could counter the effect of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena that is targeting the Sena-BJP votes. The Sena is already in the process of forging an alliance with Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India to take away Congress’s dalit votes. With the NCP contesting separately, there could be a split in Congress’s secular votes.
Pawar was speaking to the media at MET College in Bandra, where he had a daylong meeting with senior party ministers and functionaries including a special session with women party workers to review the electoral strategy for the upcoming polls likely to be held early next year.
NCP has a negligible presence in the city, with only 14 corporators, and is keen on changing this. This is likely to cost the current Mumbai party president Narendra Verma his job as many party workers have complained against him. Pawar has appointed six observers to report on ground realities and the party’s presence in the city’s six districts.
On Thursday, the observers submitted their reports and have been asked now to identify winning seats and candidates for the civic polls. Observers include MLC Prakash Binsale, Viday Chavan, Kiran Pawaskar, Ram Padagale, Ramesh Shendge and MP Sanjay Patil.
The party will also ask MLCs and MPs to divert development funds to woo voters. “We don’t have a vote bank in Mumbai. Senior leaders don’t really think Mumbai is worth the effort. For us to make an impact, we have to start strategising immediately,” said a senior party functionary. He said the party was focusing on a community-based approach in every ward.
Nearly 23 municipal corporations, 169 municipal councils, 33 Zilla Parishad and 33 Panchayat Samitis will go to polls between November 2011 and February 2012.