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MNS left with just 1 BMC corporator after Shiv Sena poaches 6

The results of the Bhandup bypoll results led to a war of words between the saffron allies, with the BJP threatening to pull the rug from under the Sena’s feet by challenging its numero uno position in BMC

mumbai Updated: Oct 14, 2017 00:29 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BJP,Shiv Sena
The Sena’s tally will now go up to 94, giving the party greater freedom to push its agenda without interference from the BJP(FILE)

In a major setback to Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), six of its seven corporators in the Mumbai civic body defected to arch-rival Shiv Sena on Friday.

This comes a day after the Sena lost a by-election for a civic ward to the BJP following which the latter taunted it would be a matter of months before it takes control of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

By inducting six MNS corporators in its fold, the Sena has strengthened its position in the 227-strong civic house with a tally of 94, making it difficult for the BJP to dislodge it.

However, the drama is far from over as both the MNS and the BJP have alleged horse trading and sought a probe by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). Further, the legality of the move could be challenged by the MNS by invoking provisions of the anti-defection law.

The Sena, however, insisted it has completed all the legal formalities.

Friday’s developments also come as a setback for the BJP, a day after its defeat in the Nanded civic polls.

The party may not be in a position to call the shots in the BMC, which is considered the Sena’s source of power and strength.

Friday began with MNS corporators, led by senior corporator Dilip Lande, forming a group and writing to the divisional commissioner (Konkan) to say they were joining the Shiv Sena. Following this, the BJP and the MNS alleged horse trading by the Sena and sought a probe by the ACB.

The MNS also wrote to the divisional commissioner requesting that the breakaway faction not be given permission to form a separate group and no decision should be given without hearing the party’s side. It is up to the divisional commissioner to take a decision now. All eyes are also on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and how he handles the issue after he arrives from his Sweden tour on Saturday.

Addressing the media at his residence in the evening, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray announced the entry of the six MNS corporators to the party fold. He insisted the defection was not poaching or horse-trading, but a ’home-coming’ of the Sainiks, who had lost their way. “Some of these corporators were in the Sena. They had lost their way and have now returned. They have willingly joined the party for the welfare of Mumbai and the Marathi manoos,” he said.

The Sena, which has 84 corporators in the BMC, got a boost in its strength as its tally has now increased to 90. It already also has support of four independent corporators. Following the civic polls earlier this year, the Sena emerged as the largest party though the difference between the two parties was only two. The Sena was short of majority, but in a tactical move, the BJP extended it unconditional support. It led to friction between the two parties when it came to running the civic house. Though it would not have been possible for the BJP to change the Sena mayor now (mayor has a fixed term of two-and-a-half years), it would have made a bid to take control of the civic house entirely. Suspecting such a move by the BJP after the party won the byelection on Thursday and another byelection due in the comings days on a ward fallen vacant due to death of a sitting BJP member, the Sena poached on the MNS. This now makes it easier for the Sena to push its agenda in Mumbai civic body, as it is just 20 seats away from a simple majority of 114. It need not rely entirely on the BJP for clearing crucial proposals in the civic house.

Interestingly, it was the BJP, which was more vocal than the MNS on Friday and called the defection a classic case of ‘horse trading’. ”Our ally [Shiv Sena] in the BMC has tried to kidnap four councillors and they have been offered Rs2-4 crore each. One such councillor is from Ghatkopar and his family has just informed me. That’s why I have written a letter to the Election Commission,’’alleged BJP MP Kirit Somaiya.

The MNS complained to the Konkan divisional commissioner and the ACB saying the Sena had bribed its corporators. “They have backstabbed us,” said MNS leader Shirish Sawant. The MNS is seeking to invoke the anti-defection law against these corporators. However, Uddhav said the Sena is on sound legal grounds. “All formalities have been completed and six MNS corporators are now legally Shiv Sena corporators.” Even legal experts say that the joining is legal as more than two-third of the corporators have defected from the MNS. Still there is likely to be a legal battle as the divisional commissioner (Konkan) will be the authority to decide the legal validity of the defection.

The development is a crushing blow to Raj, who was upset and refused to meet any leader from his party. The party had won 13 Assembly seats in the 2009 elections and 28 civic wards in the 2012 Mumbai polls. It is now reduced to one MLA and one corporator in the BMC. It puts the question mark over the party’s future.

Sources in the MNS say Raj personally called up Dilip Lande (senior MNS corporator, who led the defection) in the morning and asked him to meet. Lande denied any split and even agreed to meet Raj, but was later seen at Uddhav’s residence in the evening. “We are coming together with the Sena for the benefit of the ‘Marathi Manoos’ in Mumbai,” said Lande.

The corporators who have joined the Sena are MNS leader Dilip Lande, Archana Bhalerao, ParmeshwarKadam, Ashwini Matekar, Harshal More, and Dattaram Narvankar. Meanwhile, Sanjay Turde, MNS corporator from Kurla, is now the party’s sole representative in the BMC. Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Turde said, “I was also approached by the Sena, but I refused to leave my party,” said Turde.

Ironically, in an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the Sena had bashed the BJP for horse-trading and giving tickets to turncoats in the Nanded civic polls.

However, defending the entry of MNS corporators in his fold, Thackeray asked, “We did not start it [horse-trading]. If others do it is fine, if we do it, its betrayal?”

BJP Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar took a jibe at the Sena stating the party is very upset with its performance in Bhandup by-election, alleging the Sena indulged in break-up politics to retain its mayorship. Somaiya, too, claimed there was “horse-trading” and filed an official complaint alleging bribing corporators to switch parties. Thackeray attacked the BJP and said that the BJP should not talk about horse-trading. “If we took corporators from another party, why is the BJP complaining of stomach-ache? They should be happy at the success of their ally, if they consider us that,” Thackeray said, adding that the “Modi wave” is over.

First Published: Oct 13, 2017 15:06 IST