Apart from the fear of losing legislators, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s dilemma –whether to accept the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) offer or sit in the Opposition — is a lot more about the repercussions it could have on the civic body in Mumbai and other cities in the state.
If Thackeray decides to snap ties with the BJP, he needs to have a plan to not only ensure his men do not defect, but also to retain important and cash-rich municipal bodies such as Mumbai, Thane — around 12 in all — where it has a tie-up with the BJP.
The municipal bodies are the backbone of the Sena, with its survival largely depending on them. Several of Sena MLAs in the city have won on the basis of the work done by them in the civic body.
Anticipating Thackeray’s decision on snapping ties, BJP leaders in Mumbai are preparing to withdraw support in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and prepare for the elections in 2017.
The budget of the BMC alone was over Rs30,000 crore this year, more than the budgets of five Indian states and a Union Territory combined together -- Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Sikkim and Chandigarh.
For decades, the civic bodies, especially the BMC, have been source of strength for the Shiv Sena.
Its clout also comes from the control over the BMC, which is much more powerful than other municipal bodies. “We are weighing our options. It is clear that we cannot afford to lose municipal corporations like BMC. If we split in BMC, fighting against the BJP will become an ever bigger challenge,” said a senior Sena leader.
The outcome of the Assembly was alarming for the Sena. The BJP, while contesting alone, won 15 out of 36 Assembly seats in Mumbai—the highest—followed by Sena with 14 seats. Sena leadership is worried that the BJP may snatch the BMC from its hands in 2017.
In fact, the Sena top brass also thinks that the BJP-ruled state government will dissolve the BMC under some pretext and try to hold civic elections as early as possible to use the Modi factor effectively.
Political analyst B Venkatesh said, “The Sena feels if they don’t talk tough they will be finished. Not being in the BMC will be fatal for Thackeray. He will have to bury his ego and accept the mandate,” said B Venkatesh, political analyst.