Decks were cleared for the election of Shiv Sena candidate as the Mayor of Mumbai after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday announced that the BJP will not contest the March 8 Mayoral polls.
He also made it clear that the decision of the BJP should not be read as a "surrender" to ensure stability of his government.
"The people of Mumbai voted overwhelmingly for the BJP as they believed in our agenda of transparency in the civic administration. Shiv Sena emerged as the single largest party while we were two seats behind them. We did not get the numbers to have a Mayor of our own," Fadnavis told media persons at his official bungalow in Mumbai.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has 84 corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation while the BJP falls two short of the formers count in the cash-rich civic body.
"BJP will also not contest elections for the post of Deputy Mayor and for the standing, improvement, education committees as well as for posts of chairpersons in the BEST committee," the Chief Minister said.
"We would have needed the support of other parties to have our Mayor," he said.
The BJP had two options, either to have a Mayor by taking outside support, which meant compromising on the issue of transparency, or justify the faith and trust given to us by the people, Fadnavis said.
"We chose the second option," he said, adding, "The issue of Mumbai Mayor has nothing to do with the stability of my government. It is stable. Yesterday, Shiv Sena Ministers attended the cabinet meeting and we agreed on various issues," he said.
"The party's 82 corporators will be 'watchdogs' of transparency in the civic administration," Fadnavis said.
To a question on whether the BJP will vote for Shiv Sena in the Mayoral election, he said his party will vote for the Sena if needed.
"The BJP will not support any other party apart from the Sena," the chief minister said.
"We will not be in Opposition. No decision in the civic body can now be taken without our consent. We will support the Shiv Sena on all issues related to the development of the city," he said.
As the BJP has 82 corporators in the BMC, it will get equal representation in the standing, education, improvement and BEST committees.
On whether the BJP plans to be a "remote control" in the civic body, Fadnavis said, "We want to give control of the city to its people."
He said the issue of contesting the Mumbai Mayoral election was debated within the BJP's core committee for the last two days.
"BJP posted spectacular success in the recent municipal council, zilla parishad, panchayat samiti and municipal corporation polls. We got 1.2 lakh votes in these elections.
"The recent polls were held across 198 assembly constituencies. Our graph has increased since the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls. This shows people have shown faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's transparency and development agenda," the chief minister said.
"We can have a BJP mayor in eight of the 10 municipal corporations since we have a majority," Fadnavis said.
The chief minister said the state government will set up a committee comprising former bureaucrats Ramanath Jha, Gautam Chaterjee and Sharad Kale to make recommendations on how to bring transparency in all the municipal corporations.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena welcomed BJP's stand and said it is thankful to the Chief Minister for respecting the sentiments of people.
"We welcome the BJP's stand and are thankful to the chief minister that he finally understood and respected the sentiments of people, who are are with the Sena and support the party," Shiv Sena Minister Diwakar Raote said.
On the Chief Minister's comment that BJP corporators will act as 'watchdogs' of transparency, he said Fadnavis should emulate his stand in the state government as well.
"We have never said no to transparency. We too want a transparent administration. But the same level of transparency should be applied to the state government as well.
"Yesterday, our Ministers in cabinet meeting conveyed this to the CM. We expect him to take the first step which will be strongly backed by us," Raote said.
"The committee has been given three months to come up with recommendations," said Fadnavis.
He also said the Lok Ayukta will be requested to appoint a new Uplok Ayukta with special jurisdiction for Mumbai.