For Cong, En­emy of En­emy is a Friend

Cong not ready to com­pro­mise on its sec­u­lar cre­den­tials by vot­ing for Sena and at the same time wants to keep BJP’s am­bi­tions at bay

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - CL.Manoj@ times­group.com

New Delhi: The Congress is work­ing on a crafty “equidistant” po­si­tion­ing for the up­com­ing may­oral elec­tion at the Bri­han­mum­bai Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (BMC), where the Shiv Sena barely has an edge over the BJP in a hung house.

The party’s strat­egy is to en­sure it does not have to “com­pro­mise its sec­u­lar cre­den­tials” by vot­ing for the Shiv Sena, while at the same time achiev­ing the larger goal of trip­ping the BJP’s bid to wrest con­trol of the BMC, driv­ing a larger wedge be­tween the quar­relling saf­fron sib­lings.

Sources said the Congress is keep­ing open the op­tion of form­ing a “sec­u­lar bloc” with the Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party and the Sa­ma­jwadi Party and will field its own can­di­date. Al­ter­na­tively, it may boy­cott the March 9 elec­tion. In both sce­nar­ios, the Congress and its al­lies will be able to in­di­rectly tilt the num­bers game against the BJP. No party won a ma­jor­ity in the BMC elec­tion last week, in which the Shiv Sena got 84 seats, the BJP 82 and the Congress 31. With se­nior Mum­bai Congress lead­ers hav­ing pub­licly stated they won’t vote for the Sena can­di­date, di­rect backing for the Sena will be­come an op­tion only if there’s no other way to en­sure the BJP nom­i­nee is de­feated.

The first ‘equidistant op­tion’ for the Congress is to field its own can­di­date with the sup­port of NCP (9), SP (6) and pos­si­bly the All In­dia Ma­jlis-e-It­te­hadul Mus­limeen (2). A three-way con­test would bring down the half­way mark to the Sena’s ad­van­tage and give the Congress, NCP and SP a chance to prove their sec­u­lar cre­den­tials.

If the Congress and its sec­u­lar al­lies are sure of the Sena mop­ping up the sup­port of the Ma­ha­rash­tra Navnir­man Sena (7) —sources said the Sena and MNS are al­ready in talks —they even have the sec­ond ‘equidistant op­tion’ of boy­cotting the elec­tion on the grounds that it can’t vote for ei­ther the BJP or Sena nom­i­nees. In a BJP vs Sena con­test in the 227-mem­ber BMC, the win­ner needs to bag 114 seats, which can be achieved only with the votes of the Congress and oth­ers sec­u­lar par­ties. So far, the 84-mem­ber Sena has se­cured the ad­di­tional sup­port of three in­de­pen­dents and the BJP has four in­de­pen­dents on its side.

Ac­cord­ing to Congress sources, only in the un­likely sit­u­a­tion of MNS or NCP sup­port­ing the BJP would the party have to make its 31 cor­po­ra­tors openly back the Sena.

TOI PHOTO

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