BJP-Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance for Mumbai civic elections unlikely

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Mumbai: The possibility of a pre-poll alliance between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena for Mumbai civic polls appeared thin on Saturday as the third round of discussions between the two parties failed to make any conclusive progress.

BJP’s Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar and Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai told reporters at an impromptu and joint press conference after their meeting that Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray would now take a final decision over alliance. Both the parties had agreed to make a final pre-poll pact by 21 January. Filing of nominations for the 21 February civic polls begins on 27 January.

Shelar said the Shiv Sena offered only 60 seats to the BJP as against the BJP’s formula of 114. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has 227 seats.

Shelar said interlocutors from both the parties agreed that “there was no point in having these seat sharing discussions and decision on whether these meetings should continue and alliance should be formed should now be taken by the senior leaders of the two parties”.

BJP and Shiv Sena had entered into a pre-poll alliance for the 2012 elections to the BMC. Then, the Shiv Sena contested 135 seats and gave 64 to the BJP. The remaining seats went to the allies of both the parties. The Shiv Sena won 75 seats to the BJP’s 32.

Asked why the Shiv Sena had offered only 60 seats to the BJP which was less than even the 2012 formula, Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai said “this was 2017 and there was no point in holding seat sharing talks when both the parties did not agree to each other’s formula”. Shelar also indicated that it was impossible for the BJP to accept 60 seats offered by the Shiv Sena.

Leaders from both the parties have given enough indications that the seat sharing talks are not moving towards a mutually acceptable conclusion and pre-poll alliance. On Friday, Shiv Sena leader and one of the Sena interlocutors Anil Parab took exception to the “frequent criticism of Shiv Sena leadership by BJP leaders Shelar and Kirit Somaiya”. BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has frequently called for rooting out the “mafia-raj” from the BMC, a remark that the Shiv Sena has interpreted as a direct affront to the Thackeray family.

Shelar reacted to Parab on Saturday at an interaction with Marathi news channel ABP Majha. He said the BJP cadres felt equally offended by the frequent criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in the editorials of Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna.

Desai and Shelar, however, said leaders of the two parties agreed that there should not be “an atmosphere of distrust and ill-will among their supporters”. “The top leaders of both the parties are capable of taking final decisions but we would not like to continue discussions at our level to avoid a feeling of mutual ill-will,” Shelar said.