Mumbai - Nationalist Congress Party Mumbai president Sachin Ahir has no illusions about his party's expected performance at the BMC stakes this February.
There is visible hurt when he speaks about the failed alliance with the Congress, and his party's willingness to take a few steps backward if an alliance had at all been forged. In a candid conversation with Mumbai Live, the 44 year old MLA said that the NCP in Mumbai was under no pressure, but that it was definitely facing organisational challenges.
"This is the first time we are not in a position of power while contesting polls.
15 years ago, when we were in power and allied with the Congress, the secular voter was firmly with us. In fact, the voter hailing from western Maharashtra and the Konkan, who was not traditionally a Congress voter, has always backed the NCP."
Ahir, nephew of gangster Arun Gawli, has been entrenched in the city's politics for over two decades now, but does not harbour any illusions about his party's immediate future. "We allied with the Congress and contested very few seats, so we were not able to build ourselves organisationally," he reflected.
The party that has been out of power for two years is now focusing on building its strength, he said. Ahir knows that in Mumbai, the party cannot emerge victorious on its own in the civic polls, but said "we are organisationally strong enough today to go solo for the polls."
The MNS, he acknowledged, edged in to 'take away our voter', but the NCP is now 'trying to revive and bring back that voter in the last two years'.
"For 24 years, the BJP and the Sena have had a stranglehold on the city and the cases of corruption and the state of disrepair the civic corporation has fallen into have adversely affected the city."
There is a tone of ruefulness when he says that the Congress should have taken the lead in talks for an alliance. "They seem to have grown in confidence, we wish them well," he said diplomatically, adding however, that votes are likely to be divided with the MIM and the SP getting into the fray as well. The Congress could suffer due to this, he pointed out.
"We never claimed we would sweep the BMC polls," he said, "but our worth will be apparent to everyone in the near future."
On the alliance that never happened, Ahir acknowledged that his party had taken a backseat to the Congress for 15 years, even relinquishing the chief minister's post, but that the Congress "has been forging an alliance whenever it has been convenient to them."
This is the reason why, when the Congress did not initiate talks for an alliance, the NCP went ahead to announce its first list of 45 candidates for the BMC polls. "If we had been on shaky ground, we would not have had candidate aspirants from 180 wards," he pointed out.
"People want change," he said out, "People will make decisions at ward level and local candidates will count."
"We are neither overconfident nor are we fighting for survival or trying to spite the Congress. We want to consolidate our existence. The priority now is to check why our popularity is on the upswing in western Maharashtra and the Konkan but not in Mumbai."
"This election is symbolic for us, we are not in the numbers game here," he signed off.