In a surprise move, the BJP Saturday gave up its claim to the mayoralty of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declared that his party will support the Shiv Sena instead. He also said the BJP will not contest the elections to the posts of chairman of various committees, including the powerful Standing Committee.
The decks have thus been cleared for the Shiv Sena to install its mayor in the MCGM.
In effect, the BJP has offered absolute power to the Shiv Sena on a platter, although Fadnavis did attach a “rider” to the offer – the BJP, he said, “will closely watch the functioning and ensure transparency in the governance”.
“We contested the election on the main plank of bringing transparency to governance in the MCGM. People of Mumbai voted for us on this issue. We will not betray them. Based on our strength in the MCGM, we will get equal representation in all vital committees such as Standing Committee. We will closely watch the functioning of these committees,” the chief minister said.
He added that the BJP will not vote for any candidate other than the Sena's for chairmanship of the committees. The BJP's corporators, he said, “will be the guardians of transparency” in the corporation.
The decision has ended all speculation over which party would control the MCGM. In the recently held election, the BJP increased its strength from 31 corporators to 82, just two fewer than what the Sena managed.
Although the BJP has “surrendered” to its ally, Fadnavis insisted that the two parties will have equal representation in all important committees. “Based on the number of corporators, we will have equal number of members on all the committees. Though we won't claim chairmanship of any of the committees, every minute detail of their functioning will be monitored closely,” he said.
He also announced that a three-member committee of retired bureaucrats would be formed to “monitor overall functioning” of the corporation and a deputy lokayukta will be appointed especially for the MCGM.
“Now the ball is in Shiv Sena's court. We have given it complete liberty in Mumbai. It is up to them now, to run the city and develop it. We cannot be blamed for any wrongdoing,” said Madhav Bhandari, chief spokesperson of the BJP in Maharashtra.
Another BJP leader who did not wish to be named said, “Though the Shiv Sena will now rule the MCGM, it will always be under moral pressure from the BJP to maintain transparency and corruption-free governance. They will now have to perform at any cost and bring about overall development of the city. It cannot point fingers at the BJP anymore.”
Telling, the leader added, “The BJP has secured the rest of the state by giving Mumbai to Shiv Sena.”
Asked what he made of this development, veteran journalist and political analyst Ganesh Torsekar said, “The unconditional withdrawal by the BJP is an indicator that it's on shaky ground. If the Shiv Sena walks out of the government now, the Congress and the NCP will win the next assembly election together, since the Sena and the BJP will not form an alliance.”
Shiv Sena leader Divakar Ravate, the state transport minister, welcomed the development. “We are happy that the BJP honoured the mandate and decided to withdraw.”
The Congress, on the other hand, criticised the decision. The party's state chief Ashok Chavan said, “The BJP has nothing to do with transparency in governance. It is only interested in saving its government in the state. It has betrayed the people of Mumbai.”