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May(j)or concerns: Will NCP, Cong & Shiv Sena come together to oust BJP from the MCGM?

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 28 February 2017, 19:20 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

After the Congress created a storm by hinting at supporting the Shiv Sena to install its candidate as the mayor of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has joined in the league.

 NCP chief Sharad Pawar told reporters that local party leaders would decide on offering support to Shiv Sena (SS). On the other hand, Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said the party was contemplating fielding a candidate for mayor with the help of small parties and independents.

With the NCP jumping on to the bandwagon and with Congress coming up with the new possibility, the battle to MCGM has become even more interesting. Pawar's move is being seen as an effort to widen the rift between the Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to destabilise the state government.

The Maratha strongman also said his party was ready to face general elections if SS walked out of the government and withdrew support to the BJP.

The race to the office of the Mayor has become complicated as the BJP and Sena bagged almost the equal number seats in the recently MCGM polls. While both the parties are trying to gather enough numbers to claim a majority in the house, Opposition parties too are not sitting idle.

Congress and NCP have seen an opportunity to destabilise the state government and either impose general elections or form a government supporting the Shiv Sena.

Anyone but the BJP

“Possibilities of Congress and NCP supporting Shiv Sena to form the new state government cannot be ruled out. Earlier the state politics was completely anti-Congress. But now it has turned into anti-BJP. The current situation is that all the parties, including the Shiv Sena, have cornered the BJP. Congress and NCP are supporting the Shiv Sena considering it to be a lesser evil. There are possibilities of a new alliance of the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena also in the state. However, if this happens, BJP too has a plan B ready to save the government,” said senior journalist and political analyst Abhay Deshpande.

He said two years ago, at the time of the formation of the state government, NCP extended unconditional support to the BJP. It had sown the seeds of suspicion in the relationship between the Shiv Sena and the Congress and had spoiled the relationship forever.

Now, Pawar has played the same trick to further widen the rift, Deshpande added.

The opposition parties have decided to grab the opportunity and try to topple the government in the forthcoming Budget Session of the state Assembly starting from 6 March.

“We have not yet finalised whether to move the no-confidence motion against the government or not. However, we have made up our minds to do so. The final decision will be taken in a joint meeting of like-minded parties,” said Congress MLA Mohd Arif Naseem Khan.

Divide and rule

BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the Maharashtra Assembly with 122 seats, followed by Shiv Sena (63), Congress (42) and NCP (41). The magic figure for the Assembly is 144, which can be achieved if the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena come together.

Despite this, CM Devendra Fadnavis has made it clear that his party will not initiate an alliance with the Shiv Sena. Whosoever wants to, can form an alliance with the Congress, he said.

In such a situation, the Congress is contemplating fielding a candidate for the post of Mayor. Considering their strength along with that of the NCP's and a few independents, the Congress candidate can get 48 votes, which will be crucial to helping the Sena candidate sail through to the post of Mayor.

“This will be the wise move, as the Congress will not directly support Shiv Sena. This will also save it from the criticism of supporting the Shiv Sena,” Deshpande said.

A senior NCP leader who did not wish to be named, said, “The proximity of out leader with the BJP has sent a wrong message to the voters and we had to pay a heavy price for it in the local civic body elections. Helping the Shiv Sena, even indirectly, will salvage us to some extent.”

He said that, despite Pawar’s proximity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CM Devendra Fadnavis has almost uprooted NCP from the cooperative sector of the state. “This is right time to teach Fadnavis a lesson,” he added.

Meanwhile, veteran RSS functionary MG Vaidya has advised the BJP and the Shiv Sena to come together and divide the tenure of Mayor between them.

“When both the parties are in alliance at central and state government, it is only natural that they form a post-poll alliance at MCGM as well. Both the parties can have their mayor for two-and-half years each,” Vaidya said.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 28 February 2017, 19:20 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.