MUMBAI: Jailed mafia don Arun Gawli's party Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) will contest 25 of the 227 seats of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the Feb 16 elections, a party official said Thursday.
Gawli, who is in jail since the past three years, was due to be released last week, but the authorities have pushed it back in view of the civic elections in the state in two phases - Feb 7 and Feb 16.
His daughter and party general secretary Geeta Gawli, who is handling all his affairs in his absence, said that the ABS has decided to field candidates in 25 wards, mostly in south-central Mumbai, where Gawli enjoys support.
"Contrary to speculation in some political circles, we are not targeting any political party or groups, but are 'targeting' on people's support for us," Geeta told IANS, referring to Shiv Sena contention that ABS candidates are being put up in Congress-Nationalist Congress Party strongholds.
Last time, the ABS had won two seats in the BMC - one was won by Geeta and the other by her aunt Vandana Gawli (Arun Gawli's sister-in-law). Other party candidates had lost.
Earlier in the 2004 Maharashtra assembly elections, Gawli himself had won from the Chinchpokli constituency. Incidentally, his nephew Sachin Ahir is a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader and a minister of state in the government.
Though Gawli has been nabbed and acquitted in several cases in the past few years, he was re-arrested three years ago and jailed in the killing of Shiv Sena leader Kamlakar Jamsandekar.
"He was expected to be released from Taloja Jail, Raigad, last week. But owing to the civic elections in Mumbai and the rest of the state, the authorities have postponed it by a month," said Geeta. She admitted that the party sorely feels Gawli's absence and "we miss Daddy's blessings." (Gawli is addressed as 'Daddy' both by his supporters and party workers). However, she declared that her party would put up its best performance and offer him a "surprise gift" on his release from prison.