Congress to fight BMC elections in Mumbai on its own in 2022

Published : February 16, 2021 21:07 IST

Nana Patole (second from right) being felicitated by party workers after he took charge as president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, in Mumbai on February 12. Photo: MITESH BHUVAD/PTI

Will they or won’t they? The question has been hanging in the air for a while, but Nana Patole, the Congress’ newly appointed Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president, put it to rest on February 16. The Congress has officially announced that it will fight the prestigious and much-contested Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections on its own. The elections will be held in 2022, but parties gear up for it with almost the same vigour as they do for elections to the Vidhan Sabha.

The Congress, though the oldest party in Maharashtra, is a junior member in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), with the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) dominating through the sheer number of members. The Congress has been smarting about this ever since the alliance came into being after the 2019 Vidhan Sabha elections.

Now, under the new leadership of Patole, the Congress has announced that it is “ready to fight for all 227 seats of the corporation on its own”. At meeting held on February 16, the party discussed ways of strengthening the organisation in each civic ward. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Patole said that the meeting discussed “constituency restructuring, errors in voter restructuring” and the fact that “the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women do not see proper representation…. the role of the Congress is that all sections of society should get justice”. A committee has been appointed under the chairmanship of senior Congressman Janardan Chandurkar to look into this aspect. The committee will prepare a report and submit it to the Chief Minister and the Election Commission. Also discussed at the meeting was “a blueprint for the development of Mumbai”.

The Congress’ decision to fight the BMC elections on its own is a significant one. The party has felt left out of many decisions that have been taken by the Sena and the NCP, and has not hesitated to express its disappointment. It has also found itself at variance with its partners on some crucial issues. The most recent example is the Sena’s determination to rename Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar. The Congress has repeatedly said it will not support the move and that it was not part of the common minimum programme of the MVA. The decision exposes once again the tenuous threads of political convenience that hold the MVA together. And while the decision to go alone in the BMC elections may end up bolstering the Congress’ faltering self-confidence, there is the ever-present danger that the split could work to the advantage of the ever-watchful Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The decision to break away is a politically brave one. In the last BMC elections in 2017, the Congress won just 31 of the 227 civic wards in Mumbai. Nana Patole has a reputation as an inspirational leader. He certainly has his work cut out for him.