Mumbai (The Hindu): Finding itself unable to attain the numbers necessary to ensure its candidate’s victory in the mayoral election on March 8, the BJP on Saturday announced its decision to withdraw from the contest.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while making the announcement, took the moral high ground saying his party will not be aiming for the key posts of Deputy Mayor, Leader of Opposition, Standing Committee chairperson or, for that matter, chairpersonship of any civic committee. Rather, he said, BJP corporators will work as the ‘gatekeepers of transparency’.
Mr. Fadnavis said, “The BJP’s success in the civic polls is even bigger than its victory in 2014 Assembly elections. We fought the election on our promise of transparency, and the people of this city took us from 32 to 82. We respect the people’s mandate, which is in favour of transparency. We have decided to work as the gatekeepers of transparency, the position which will be followed by all our corporators.”
Big fight defused
The BJP’s decision has effectively taken the edge off the mayoral race, which was expected to be a triangular contest between the Sena, BJP and the Congress. It has also negated all options for the Sena to carry out its threat of quitting the State government while putting an end to speculations mid-term Assembly polls and political instability for the present.
Till Friday, the BJP had been looking for support from independents and smaller-party corporators to increase its numbers for the mayoral election, and had convinced Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) corporator Geeta Gawli to support it.
However, the BJP’s decision to not contest the mayoral election came with a rider: Mr. Fadnavis, in keeping with the transparency plank that powered the party to 82 seats in the civic body, announced a three-member committee comprising former IAS officers to study the BMC’s functioning and submit a report to the government within three months. The members include Ramnath Jha, Gautam Chaterjee and Sharad Kale. In addition, a special Deputy Lokayukta will be appointed for the BMC.
Sena names candidates
The Shiv Sena’s Vishwanath Mahadeshwar and Hemangi Worlikar filed nominations for posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively, but the BJP’s decision to step aside has ensured that the Sena candidates’ victory is mere formality. The Congress on its part fielded Vitthal Lokare and Vinnie D’souza for the elections to these posts.
Transport Minister and senior Sena leader Diwakar Raote welcomed the BJP move. “I am happy to note the BJP has accepted Mumbai’s mandate. I thank the CM and congratulate Uddhavji for this.”
Oppn. attacks CM
The Opposition, however, claimed it was an attempt by Mr. Fadnavis to safeguard his post at the cost of transparency. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan said, “During the campaign, BJP had accused Sena of extortion, corruption and mafia activities. The BJP must now answer why they are allowing politicians like these to rule Mumbai. We have been saying from the beginning that the Sena-BJP fight is nothing but an attempt to divert voters’ attention, and we have been proved right.”
The NCP too criticised the BJP, alleging the party has ‘fooled’ the people. “Without the people’s mandate, the BJP should have occupied the Opposition benches, which they have rejected. Instead, the party will be supporting the Sena, a party they had said was corrupt. This is an attempt to safeguard the CM’s chair at the cost of Mumbaikars,” Mumbai NCP chief senior party leader Sachin Ahir said.
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