Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today made a surprising announcement saying that the BJP will not contest the March 8 Mayoral polls.
Fadnavis said the BJP will not have its nominees for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor posts, shortly after Shiv Sena declared its candidates for the two slots in the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Fadnavis, who ruled out any threat to his ministry due to ruptures in relations with Shiv Sena in the wake of the civic polls, said his party would also not field candidates for Deputy Mayor's post as well as for the post of chairpersons of other civic panels, including the key standing committee.
Fandavis, who led the BJP's civic poll campaign on the plank of 'transparency', said his party would rather remain the 'watchdog' in BMC.
"People in Mumbai voted overwhelmingly for the BJP since they believed in our agenda for transparency in the civic administration," he said.
"Shiv Sena has emerged as the single largest party, while the BJP is two seats behind. So, we did not get the numbers to install our Mayor. We would have needed to take support of other parties for that," he said.
Fadnavis said the BJP did not want to compromise on the issue of transparency by seeking outside support.
So, the party chose the option of respecting the faith the voters had reposed in it and added that it should not be construed as a "surrender" for the sake of the stability of his government, in which Shiv Sena is a partner.
"My government is stable. Yesterday, Shiv Sena ministers attended the cabinet meeting and we agreed on various issues," he said.
The Shiv Sena has welcomed the BJP's decision and thanked Fadnavis for "respecting the sentiments of the people".
Hours before the BJP spelt out its stance, the Shiv Sena had announced Vishvanath Mahadeshwar as its nominee for the Mayor's post and Hareshwar Worlikar as Deputy Mayor candidate.
Neither the Sena, which emerged as the single largest party with 84 seats, nor the BJP, a close second with 82
corporators, has enough numbers to touch the half-way mark in 227-member council.
However, the party with the highest number of corporators can get its candidates elected for the two posts so long as other parties do not come together and put up joint candidates.
The next Mayor will be elected during the first meeting of the new House on March 8. Today was the last day for filing nominations for the post.
The local body polls across Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai, had seen the BJP and Sena campaigning bitterly against each other, even casting doubts about the stability of the state's first BJP-led government.
The BJP put up a sterling performance in all parts of the state and shook Sena's citadel Mumbai, its political heartland land right from its formation in 1960s.
After Geeta Gawli, who won as the candidate of the local outfit Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) pledging support to the BJP, the party's effective strength has gone up to 83.
(WIth inputs from PTI)