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
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.