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Cracks in Congress over propping up Sena in BMC

MUMBAI, Feb 25:  Differences in the Congress over considering the option of enabling a Shiv Sena candidate to become mayor of Mumbai today came to the fore as a senior party leader strongly opposed the idea.
“I take strong objection to any discussion even of having any tie up or indirect support to the Shiv Sena in the BMC,” party’s former city chief Gurudas Kamat said, adding he has informed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of his opinion.
With the bitterly fought elections to BMC resulting in a fractured verdict, thinking is strong in the Maharashstra Congress that it should consider the option of enabling the Shiv Sena to foist its candidate as mayor of the city, as a tactical move to sharpen the rift in the saffron camp.
The Congress strategists who mooted the idea are also of the view that this move could push the Devendra Fadnavis government into a deep crisis as Sena would be forced to break out of the alliance in such a scenario.
Playing it safe, MPCC president Ashok Chavan yesterday signalled Sena to first pull out of the BJP-led government and his party would take a call after that.
Kamat, who crossed swords with city Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam ahead of the campaign for the civic polls, said the party had fought against both the Sena and the BJP all along for their divisive policies and attempts to align with them will backfire.
The Congress, which finished third in the race with 31 seats in the 227-member House, is unlikely to rush to a decision, preferring to wait till the ongoing state elections are over, where the party is campaigning on a strong secular pitch.
The stand off between Sena and the BJP, who fought the polls separately, has prompted sections in the Congress to play a tactical game against its arch rival the BJP.
“Party workers feel Sena is a lesser evil than the BJP,” said a Congress state office-bearer who did not wish to be identified.
The party, however, would refrain from any open discussion or statement about this until the results of UP and other state Assembly polls are out, considering the political implications of such a move could have on its prospects.
The tally of Shiv Sena, which emerged as the single largest party after the counting on Thursday, has risen to 87 corporators with three party rebels who won as Independent nominees returning to its fold yesterday.
Though this give a slight push to Uddhav Thackeray’s efforts to cobble up numbers, reaching the magic figure of 114 needed to rule the crucial civic body is still a far cry.
Sena, however, continued to maintain that the coveted Mayor’s post will be held by it only, discounting the chances of a post-poll pact with the BJP.
Sena is likely to spell out stance on the fluid situation after the meeting of senior leaders and corporators called by Thackeray this evening.
Sounding sceptical about the idea of propping up a Sena candidate as mayor, senior leader Prithviraj Chavan said this was a matter of serious implications and only the party high command could take a call on that.
“There is no discussion in the state unit regarding support to the Sena for the mayor’s post. It is a serious matter.. Has serious implications,” he said.
“If we take a decision to support (Sena), we (can) stop the BJP from installing its mayor, but for how long? If we don’t support, BJP will have its mayor,” the former chief Minister said.
Even the proponents of the idea of backing Sena, said a final call will be taken by the central leadership after considering the pros and cons of entering into overt or covert trucks with the saffron party, known for its aggressive stand on several issues, which is diametrically opposed to the secular plank of the Congress.
On the other hand, BJP which notched up 82 seats in the Mumbai civic polls after fighting separately under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, has said it would not compromise on the issue of transparency in the BMC administration, which was the party’s poll plank. (PTI)

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