New Delhi: While the spotlight is on government formation in Maharashtra and the announcement of President’s Rule, the Shiv Sena has reasons to worry about its control over the country’s richest civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The Shiv Sena is still talking about the possibility of forming a government with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, after snapping its alliance with the BJP. However, if the proposed alliance falls through, the Sena’s control over the BMC could also come under threat.
Shiv Sena’s only central minister, Arvind Sawant, has already quit the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, but in the BMC, the Sena and the BJP haven’t yet decided to go their separate ways.
The Sena has 94 corporators in the 227-member house, while the BJP has 82, though the parties are not in a formal alliance in the BMC. If the BJP stops supporting the Sena, the Congress, with 30 corporators, and the NCP, with six, could come to the Sena’s rescue.
What happened in 2017
The BMC is in charge of the entire Greater Mumbai region, and draws its power from its huge budget — the 2019-20 figure stands at Rs 30,692 crore, which is down from the 2016-17 high of Rs 37,052 crore. This budget is greater than that of some small states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Goa.
The Shiv Sena has controlled the powerful body since 1985. In fact, its rise in Maharashtra politics is attributed to its control over the BMC. However, the BJP has improved its position in the BMC by leaps and bounds, going from 30 corporators in 2012 to 82 in 2017.
The Sena and the BJP, though partners in the Maharashtra government, had been dysfunctional allies for most of the build-up to the 2017 BMC elections, and fought the polls separately. The Sena ended up winning just two seats more than the BJP, with 84 corporators to 82, but later inducted seven Maharashtra Navnirman Sena members and three Independents to swell its numbers to 94.
After the polls, Uddhav Thackeray had instructed the Sena ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government to resign if the BJP did not support a Shiv Sena mayor. The ministers reportedly carried resignation letters in their pockets for a few days, and after hectic negotiations, the BJP supported Sena’s Vishwanath Mahadeshwar as mayor, and in return, received a larger say in state politics.
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What BJP plans to do
The BJP’s core committee in Maharashtra has been watching the developments on government formation closely, and one senior leader said the party will go slow on any further moves, because it expects Uddhav to do a “ghar-wapsi” to the alliance “within two or three months”.
In case the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance materialises, the BJP will formally stake its claim for the post of leader of the opposition in the BMC. A BJP insider said the party knows the Sena’s functioning in the BMC, and once in opposition, it will “hit” the Sena on most cases of tendering, budgetary allocation etc., according to the situation.
However, a Shiv Sena leader said if the BJP withdraws support, they can also take the help of Independents and “like-minded parties” to elect one of its own as mayor again. There are 13 Independents and one MNS corporator left in the house.
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If sena depends on congress support in bmc then it’s negotiating power will reduce with Congress at state level.
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