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Mumbai: Shiv Sena to go solo in BMC polls?

Mumbai: Shiv Sena is “likely” to go it alone in the upcoming city civic body polls, party sources said on Sunday, even as it formally begins talks on alliance with BJP on MOnday.

Leaders in both Sena and BJP feel that the parties will fare better if they contest on their own, and, if needed, they could go for a post-poll tie-up for the Asia’s biggest civic body — the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Sources in BJP also said that their party should be ready to go alone instead of yielding to the demands of Sena, which shares power with it at the Centre and in Maharashtra though the ties have been frosty since the 2014 Assembly polls. The polls to 10 municipal corporations, including the cash-rich Mumbai civic body, will be held on February 21.

“An internal survey by our party shows that we will win around 85-90 seats in case we were to contest allying with the BJP. But that number will shoot up to 110-115 seats if we go solo. In such a scenario, it would not be advisable for us to take the BJP onboard for the polls,” a source close to Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray said.

The survey also revealed that BJP will win around 35-40 seats if it contests in alliance with Sena but the number will go up to 60-65, if it goes solo, he said. “It is in our best of interest to contest the polls separately. Thus, it is most likely that we will both contest as separate entities. Yet, BJP remains a natural ally of Sena. Even if we contest separately, we can always engage in a post-poll alliance,” the source said.

He said Sena and BJP will formally begin seat-sharing talks from tomorrow and three leaders from each party have been entrusted the task of carrying out the negotiations. “Sena leaders Anil Desai, Anil Parab, Subhash Desai will carry out the talks with BJP leaders Ashish Shelar, Vinod Tawde and Prakash Mehta,” he said. “At the outset, the BJP has demanded 115 seats, while Sena is not ready to give it more than 75 seats. The alliance is impossible if BJP remains adamant on its demand,” he said.

Another source in the Sena said the party chief, in a recent meeting with Sena ministers, has given them full autonomy to suggest names of probable candidates. “However, there is a caveat here. Uddhavji has even said that if the candidate fails to win the seat suggested by the minister, he would have to resign from the government. This has become a do or die battle for us,” he said.

The election is crucial for Sena as BMC has remained its stronghold even when the Congress-NCP ruled the state for 15 years and could help the party redeem its position after it slipped to the status of a junior partner of BJP following the Assembly polls. Meanwhile, a source in the BJP claimed their internal survey has predicted that the party would get anywhere between 90 to 103 seats if it contests on its own.

“The diatribe launched by Sena against BJP and its leadership in ‘Saamana’ (Sena’s mouthpiece) is an indication that they are apprehensive about the BMC slipping from its political grip,” he said.

Earlier, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had argued in favour of a pre-poll alliance with the Sena, and had said that if there will a tie-up, it would based on transparent administration in the BMC.

PTI