Although top Congress leader from Maharashtra Gurudas Kamat has rubbished possibilities of his party joining hands with the Shiv Sena to form the board in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Mumbai, political observers are not entirely writing off the prospects, especially when the two saffron parties – the Sena and BJP – are not in their best of terms.
Sources in the Congress have claimed that the Sena has approached them to form the board to keep the BJP away. The Grand-old Party is apparently divided over the decision to join hands with the Sena. The section which is in favour of the move feels it could be a good option to keep the BJP under check, especially after the great surge it has shown in Mumbai and the rest of the Maharashtra in the recent civic polls.
The Congress, on the other hand, has faced a steady decline in a state where it was in power even three years ago. The party also feels that if it helps the Sena to form the BMC board by completely avoiding the BJP, then that could boost the possibility of the Sena dumping the BJP in the state government as well, paving the way for not just interim polls but also give the Congress a welcome chance to try for a fightback.
On the other hand, the section in the Congress which is opposed to the move, which includes people like Kamat, feels it would be an unethical thing for a tie-up with the Sena would only diminish the Congress's secular identity. A number of state leaders, however, have decided to play it safe by pushing the ball into the Gandhis' court. It was learnt that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi was also briefed on this but the Congress leadership has opted to wait and watch as of now. The mayoral election in Mumbai is due on March 8.
Going with BJP now will be loss of face for Sena
The Sena's desperation is understandable. For if Uddhav Thackeray's party decides to go with the BJP after openly scrapping electoral alliance with them, it would be a loss of face and only boost Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's image. Even the two-seat lead in BMC will be neutralised if there is a Sena-BJP alliance and despite having a mayor, the Sena will remain under the shadow of the BJP. It could also dent the party's prospects in the next Assembly as well as the Lok Sabha election, both scheduled in 2019. The Sena has also promised the post of the deputy mayor to the Congress to show how much serious it is to permanently part ways with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party.
The Sena won 84 seats in the BMC polls and was joined by some Independents later. The Congress has won 31 seats. The required figure to form the board is 114 in a body of 227 members. The BJP has won 82 seats.
Sena has backed Congress during presidential elections in the past
If indeed there is a Sena-Congress compromise, it will not be the first time in the history. The Sena had backed the Congress twice in the past – both during presidential elections. There is definitely a difference between the presidential election and a direct election like the civic polls for it makes the eternal secular-communal debate relevant but if the BJP can join the People's Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir despite the ideological divide, then why can't the Sena and Congress?
Politics, after all, is the art of the possible and more so in these times.