BMC poll race: Shiv Sena finalises list of 227 candidates
While the Sena, in an aggressive stance, finalised its list of 227 candidates after a marathon meeting between party chief Uddhav Thackeray and his office bearers in Mumbai, all eyes in the BJP were on CM Devendra Fadnavis, who was in Delhi to attend a Niti Aayog meeting.mumbai Updated: Jan 25, 2017 12:25 IST
With just two days to go before candidates start filing their nominations for the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, sentiments in the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were that the elections would be contested solo. However, officially, neither party drew the curtains on the possibility of an alliance.
While the Sena, in an aggressive stance, finalised its list of 227 candidates after a marathon meeting between party chief Uddhav Thackeray and his office bearers in Mumbai, all eyes in the BJP were on CM Devendra Fadnavis, who was in Delhi to attend a Niti Aayog meeting. Fadnavis is expected to discuss the “state of the alliance” with the party top brass.
Sources in the BJP said things would be clearer after Fadnavis returns late on Tuesday.
It is widely expected that if an alliance has to be stitched, Fadnavis will call Thackeray and get the talks restarted, with a final seat-sharing proposal.
“Things will get clear after the chief minister returns from Delhi. He may speak to Thackeray tomorrow and ask him for a clear picture,” said a senior BJP leader. “But even if they [Sena] agree to give us 100 seats, deciding which seats to keep and give will be an impossible task, given that we are running short on time. We are not waiting for an alliance and have readied 227 candidates. If there is an alliance, we expect a lot of rebellion within both camps.”
In any case, Thackeray on Monday hinted at January 26 as the deadline for taking a final decision on the alliance and the Sena seems all set to steal a march over its ally as it tries to set the agenda for the polls.
After independently releasing its manifesto for the BMC polls, the Sena on Tuesday finalised its list of 227 candidates. The party has also drawn up a campaign schedule for Thackeray and his son, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya, and also kicked off its social media publicity drive, which talks about the party’s achievements.
“The list of all 227 candidates is with the party chief [Thackeray]. Alliance or no alliance, we are preparing as if we would if we have to contest solo,” said a senior Sena leader. “Hence, the manifesto has been released, the candidates decided, and other modalities being worked out. The BJP can join us if the alliance works out. Our party chief will clarify on January 26.”
The Sena’s first show of strength is expected on Republic Day at an event at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre in Goregaon, where Thackeray is expected to convey to his cadre the final decision on the alliance with BJP.
“All of Shiv Sena’s gat pramukhs and volunteers will attend the gathering. Our party has more than 50,000 gat pramukhs in 350 shakhas across the 227 wards, and each of them has several volunteers under them. We can say that for every building in the city, we have at least two Sena volunteers for active work and campaigning,” a Sena leader said.
Sena leaders have also drawn up an informal campaign for social media that they kicked off on Tuesday. They plan to release a different set of posters, speaking about the people’s trust in the party, praise their work and hail its leadership, every day or once in two days. Using the Sena’s official Facebook page, party leaders’ and volunteers’ Facebook accounts, Twitter and Instagram handles, the party aims to make their campaign go viral.
The campaign, which started with the use of Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s photo, will be pegged on tag lines such as ‘I trust Uddhavsaheb’; ‘I trust Aaditya’; ‘Shiv Sena works’; and so on. It will stress on how the party has ensured women’s security, employment for the poor youth, facilities for the Koli (fisherfolk) and dabbawala communities, among other things.
“WhatsApp itself offers access to 256 people in every group. With the kind of network that the Shiv Sena has, we are easily reaching out to around a lakh people on WhatsApp. We even did a Facebook live of the release of our manifesto yesterday, and got nearly 30,000 views,” said Sena’s Harshal Pradhan, who is coordinating the effort.
Besides, irrespective of the fate of the alliance, the Shiv Sena has almost finalised a schedule for public addresses by Thackeray and roadshows by Aaditya from February 1. Between the two, the leaders are expected to have more than 50 public gatherings to campaign for the polls, especially in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Nashik and Nagpur.
In the BJP camp, unlike in Sena, things have slowed down given the uncertainty of the tie-up. While the list of 227 candidates has been informally finalised, it still has to get the formal go ahead and the manifesto of the party has been kept under wraps. The party activity is expected to pick up pace from January 27, when the nomination filing process begins.
Surendra Jondhale, who heads Mumbai University’s department of politics and civics, said, “The Shiv Sena is trying to aggressively build pressure on BJP as a strategy to accept its terms if it wants an alliance. In the coalition government at the state, the Sena gets secondary treatment, and the party is trying to use this opportunity to assert its presence.”
Probably, Thackeray has learnt the advantage of being first to launch the campaign from the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in last year’s Assembly elections.
First Published: Jan 25, 2017 01:05 IST