BMC Elections: Could Sena-Congress merge?

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Although it was Shiv Sena that emerged the single largest party with 84 seats in the results to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election announced on Thursday, BJP stole the show. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surprised everybody, winning 82 seats, a 164 percent increase from its tally of 31 in the 2012 BMC election. Meanwhile Congress was a distant third with 31 seats.

There was speculation that Sena may seek Congress’ support but the latter yesterday said there was no question of supporting the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, said his party will join hands with Congress in all the municipal corporations and Zilla Parishads, where elections were held this month. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has already ruled out the BJP seeking Congress’ help in the BMC.

Congress sources had said there was strong thinking in the party’s state unit that it should consider the helping Shiv Sena out, as a tactical move to widen the rift between the Sena and the BJP.

However, senior Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam had ruled out such a move yesterday. Nirupam, however, did claim that Sena leaders had been “in touch with” Congress.

Top sources confirmed that Uddhav Thackeray’s emissaries had approached the Congress with a “proposal” for backing Shiv Sena’s claim for the city Mayor’s post. They said the Congress, which suffered a drubbing in the polls, is considering the option of extending “outside support” to the Shiv Sena. Sources said the Shiv Sena has offered the Deputy Mayor’s post to the Congress in lieu of its support.

Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan convened a meeting of senior party leaders where the Sena’s option is said to have been discussed. Former Chief Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Narayan Rane; Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam; MP Hussain Dalwai and former Maharashtra ministers Naseem Khan and Balasaheb Thorat attended the meeting.

Since 114 seats are required for reaching the simple majority mark, all eyes were on Congress. However, the party sources said it was wary of siding with “communal” forces, especially when it had made secularism its main plank in the Uttar Pradesh elections.