The Congress high command on Saturday ruled out propping up the Shiv Sena for the Mumbai mayor’s post. Locked in a bitter battle with ally BJP for control of the country’s richest civic body, the Sena had earlier started backroom talks with the Congress to checkmate the BJP.
But throwing a spanner in Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s plan of coming to power without BJP’s support, the Congress central leadership on Saturday asked the party’s city unit to refrain from acting in any manner which would send a message that the party had either directly or indirectly helped the Shiv Sena.
Following this diktat, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said that there was no question of joining hands, or even indirectly backing the Shiv Sena. “We have been fighting the communal policies of both Shiv Sena and BJP. There can be no alliance or understanding with either,” he said. He said the mandate for the Congress party is to sit in the opposition in BMC. “We respect this mandate,” he added.
Elections to the Mumbai civic body have thrown up a hung verdict. The Shiv Sena has won 84 seats and has the support of four independents; the BJP picked up 82 seats and has so far managed the support of one independent corporator. Neither party is in a position to come to power independently without Congress’s support.
On Friday, Congress MLA Abdul Sattar had set the ball rolling over the option of extending support to the Shiv Sena. The MLA, who is seen as a close confidant of Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan, had said that the party will take a call on extending support after receiving a formal proposal from the Sena. He contended that the BJP is the Congress’s principal rival.