BMC polls: Shiv Sena pre­pares ground to con­test with­out BJP CM and Ra­j­nath prom­ise smooth re­lease for film

ELEC­TION STRAT­EGY Ud­dhav Thack­eray’s party not to forge al­liance for civic polls in small towns

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Manasi Phadke manasi.phadke@hin­dus­tan­times.com HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Bhadra Sinha bhadra.sinha@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The Shiv Sena sent out strong sig­nals on Thurs­day that the party might end its 20-year-old al­liance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coun­try’s rich­est civic body, the Bri­han­mum­bai Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (BMC). Sena chief Ud­dhav Thack­eray told se­nior party lead­ers to pre­pare to con­test all polls on their own strength, in­stead of be­ing de­pen­dent on oth­ers.

Sources said Thack­eray’s mes­sage to the Sena lead­ers, in a meet­ing at his res­i­dence — Matoshree — was that the Shiv Sena’s fi­nal bat­tle is with its own friend, and if it wins this one, ‘the party will emerge all-pow­er­ful. He fur­ther said that in the party’s 50-year his­tory, the Sena has al­ways fought against ev­ery­one, be it the Con­gress, the Na­tion­al­ist Con­gress Party (NCP), or its al­lies and traitors – a veiled ref­er­ence to the BJP – and is ca­pa­ble of se­cur­ing a win all by it­self.

“Ud­dhavsa­heb cited ex­am­ples of re­gional par­ties headed by Jay­alalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Lalu Prasad in Bi­har and Ma­mata Ban­er­jee in West Ben­gal and pointed out how they could win their states con­test­ing solo. He even cited the ex­am­ple of Odisha chief min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik, who snapped ties with the BJP and led his party to vic­tory in the Assem­bly elec­tions there,” said a se­nior Sena leader.

“Although there is no de­fin­i­tive de­ci­sion yet about an al­liance for the Mum­bai civic elec­tions, he has told us to be pre­pared to fight it out alone. He made it clear that if the BJP wants an al­liance for Mum­bai, the party should ap­proach us. We won’t go with a beg­ging bowl.”

To test the wa­ters, Sena has al­ready drawn up its elec­tion strat­egy and is plan­ning to con­test elec­tions to 212 mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils and na­gar pan­chay­ats – sched­uled from Novem­ber 27 CM Deven­dra Fad­navis and Shiv Sena chief Ud­dhav Thack­eray hold the key to the fu­ture of the BJP-Sena al­liance.

to De­cem­ber 8 – alone with­out a tie-up with the BJP, Sena lead­ers said. The polls for 4,750 seats, fol­lowed by elec­tions to ten mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions, in­clud­ing the cash-rich BMC, are ex­pected to present a clear pic­ture of where ev­ery party cur­rently stands in Ma­ha­rash­tra. The elec­tions will also give an inkling of whether the BJP, which came to power in the state with a re­sound­ing ma­jor­ity, still en­joys the same pop­u­lar­ity.

An­other Shiv Sena leader said, “All party lead­ers present at the meet­ing agreed that the BJP is try­ing to over­power re­gional par­ties at the lo­cal level, and does not treat the Shiv Sena as an equal part­ner.” He added

that Thack­eray also ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure about the BJP not con­sult­ing the Shiv Sena for nom­i­na­tions to the state leg­isla­tive coun­cil, for which bi­en­nial elec­tions are sched­uled for six seats in Novem­ber.

This en­tire week, the Sena chief has been vis­it­ing the party’s shakhas, its lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tive units, across Mum­bai, speak­ing to its ‘foot­sol­diers’ and among other things, re­view­ing the party’s pre­pared­ness to fight the BMC elec­tions solo. At the party’s an­nual Dussehra rally, too, Thack­eray hinted that the Sena will con­cede to an al­liance only if it gets the “up­per hand”.

Se­nior BJP lead­ers, how­ever, dis­missed the Sena chief ’s missive to the party’s se­nior lead­ers as a bar­gain­ing tac­tic.

Union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh as­sured the pro­duc­ers of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil on Thurs­day that it will get a “safe and se­cure” re­lease, giv­ing hope to film­maker Karan Johar’s film that ran into trou­ble be­cause of a call to ban Pak­istani artistes.

He as­sured a del­e­ga­tion of film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­ers a “great Di­wali” and 100% sup­port in re­leas­ing the film on Oc­to­ber 28, de­spite na­tion­al­ist groups and po­lit­i­cal par­ties call­ing for its ban.

“Ra­j­nath Singh said he will speak to chief min­is­ters of ev­ery state and that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will re­lease with­out any vi­o­lence,” del­e­ga­tion head and film­maker Mukesh Bhatt said.

Ma­ha­rash­tra CM Deven­dra Fad­navis as­sured film­maker Johar that his BJP-led gov­ern­ment will en­sure smooth re­lease of the film. “The gov­ern­ment will not al­low any­one to dis­turb law and or­der and stern ac­tion will be taken. Demo­cratic protest is fine, but un­law­ful ac­tiv­ity will not be tol­er­ated,” Fad­navis as­sured Johar.

Johar found sup­port from an­other Union min­is­ter — Babul Supriyo, a Bol­ly­wood play­back singer and BJP MP. “The MNS have no

right or shouldn’t have the au­dac­ity to cre­ate ruckus at the­atres, they have al­ways been a party of goons,” he said.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — fea­tur­ing Pak­istani ac­tor Fawad Khan — ran into protests af­ter Pak­istan-based mil­i­tants killed 19 sol­diers in Uri on Septem­ber 18.

Na­tion­al­ists sought a ban on em­ploy­ing Pak­istani artistes in In­dian cin­ema and tele­vi­sion.

The Raj Thack­eray-led Ma­ha­rash­tra Navnir­man Sena and na­tion­al­ist groups is­sued a veiled threat of vandalism at mul­ti­plexes if the film is screened.

The Supreme Court, and not Par­lia­ment, which takes too long to frame laws, would de­cide if in­vok­ing re­li­gion by can­di­dates or their sup­port­ers to seek votes was il­le­gal, Chief Jus­tice of In­dia TS Thakur said on Thurs­day.

Elec­tions were a sec­u­lar ex­er­cise and re­li­gion should be sep­a­rated from po­lit­i­cal process, said a seven-bench judge headed by the CJI, won­der­ing if rais­ing is­sues like Ram tem­ple by a poll can­di­date was le­gal.

“Our ba­sic ethos is sec­u­lar­ism…..elec­tions are a sec­u­lar is­sue. Can re­li­gion be brought into the sec­u­lar arena? Do we al­low re­li­gion to be the ba­sis of elec­toral pol­i­tics,” the court said.

The re­marks come a few months ahead of five state elec­tions, in­clud­ing those in Ut­tar Pradesh where at­tempts are be­ing made to re­vive the Ram Tem­ple is­sue, a prom­ise to build a tem­ple in Ay­o­d­hya where once Babri Masjid stood.

The court made these ob­ser­va­tions as it re­vis­its a 1995 judg­ment that said Hinduism was a way of life and seek­ing votes in its name was not il­le­gal.

“Par­lia­ment has not done any­thing in the last 20 years since this ref­er­ence (dis­pute on Hinduism) was pend­ing. They did not do any­thing about sex­ual ha­rass­ment for years,” the court said, re­fer­ring to the Vishakha guide­lines that came into force in De­cem­ber 2013, 16 years af­ter the court’s or­der.

HT FILE PHOTO

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