BJP unlikely to bow to Sena pressure in Mumbai North East

Kirit Somaiyya (File)

The central leadership of the BJP remains keen on fielding Kirit Somaiyya, sitting Member of Parliament from the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency, although for now the party has withheld the name of the candidate for the crucial seat under pressure from the Shiv Sena. A senior BJP leader requesting anonymity said, "The central leadership of the party believes Somaiyya's candidature would be determined on elective merit. There is no question of bowing to Sena's wishes."

The argument given by the central leadership, according to sources, is this: "Why should the Sena have any objection to Somiayya's criticism against them. Shiv Sena (MP) Sanjay Raut's criticism against Prime Minister Narendra Modi was worse in last four and half years."

However, BJP leaders are exercising caution in order not to ruffle feathers in either the Shiv Sena or the BJP.

Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency have openly expressed their opposition to Somaiyya. "We have expressed our opposition to the party president before the Sena-BJP alliance was announced. If the BJP fields Somaiyya, then the Shiv Sainiks are in no mood to campaign for him," said Rajendra Raut, Sena's pisional head from Ghatkopar.

"If the BJP fields another candidate, then we will follow the alliance dharma and campaign for the BJP candidate," he added.

In 2016, Somaiyya had alleged that the BMC was in the grip of a mafia, run by 'Bandra Saheb' - a reference to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray who lives in Bandra - and had also held a Dussehra event to burn the 'Ravan of BMC Mahapalika Mafia'.

A Sena leader said that Somaiyya also made attempts to disqualify three Sena corporators by extending support to Opposition leaders. "Then, how do we expect that these corporators will work for Somaiyya. Besides, Somaiyya has never given any funds to works suggested by us and has not taken us into confidence for any work. So, there is lot of bitterness among the Sainiks against Somaiyya," the leader added.

However, Sena's Sanjay Raut maintained that it was the BJP's internal matter. "And the BJP should decide on it," he said.