Mumbai: In a major climb down, the BJP has withdrawn from the race for post of Mayor of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here on Saturday.
Fadnavis said his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ready to offer support to the Shiv Sena but would not take any post, including of Deputy Mayor, Leader of Opposition, or chairmanship of any committees in the country's richest and biggest civic body.
"However, if they require any votes, the BJP is ready to offer support to the Shiv Sena and will always vote in favour of progress and development," he told media persons here.
The BJP decision would pave the way for a Shiv Sena mayor to sail through easily at the elections scheduled on March 8.
The Shiv Sena immediately welcomed the BJP decision with Transport Minister and party leader Diwakar Raote saying the BJP has recognised the mandate of the people of Mumbai.
On the other side, Congress spokesperson Raju Waghmare said this was expected since the match between the BJP and the Shiv Sena was "fixed", while Nationalist Congress Party state President Sunil Tatkare said the BJP move was not surprising, as his party had maintained all along that the Shiv Sena would not implement its threat of leaving the central and state governments.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis added that the BJP corporators would serve as "soldiers of transparency" and keep a watch over the BMC administration - which will now be solely in the hands of the Sena.
"We will appoint a three-member coordination committee which will submit its report in three months on how to bring about transparency in the BMC functioning," he said.
He also announced he would request the Maharashtra Lokayukta to appoint a Deputy Lokayukta exclusively for Mumbai to ensure a transparent city administration.
Fadnavis also made it clear that the Shiv Sena is very much an ally in the Maharashtra government "which doesn't face any threats".
The sudden developments came even as both the Shiv Sena and the BJP continued to adopt a tough public stance with claims that the next mayor for the civic body, which had a budget of a whopping Rs 37,000 crore plus last year - would be from their party.
Until Friday evening, hectic efforts were underway on both sides to muster adequate numbers for the mayoral polls after Mumbaikars gave a sharply fractured verdict in last month's elections.
In the 227-member BMC House, the Shiv Sena secured 84 seats, the BJP got 82, the Congress 31, the NCP nine, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena seven, the Samajwadi Party six, the AIMIM two, the Akhil Bharatiya Sena one while five Independents also won.
Four independents had extended support to the Shiv Sena, while the ABS had offered to support the BJP, which were yet still far away from the magic figure of 114 for electing their Mayor.