A day after Shiv Sena leader Kiran Pawaskar quit the party and joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), rumours of more leaders leaving the saffron front remained in the political circles on Friday.
Speculation rose after home minister RR Patil while welcoming Pawaskar on Thursday said that more leaders from the Sena would follow him.
The name doing the rounds was Sena’s top functionary and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut. However, while speaking to the Hindustan Times, Raut strongly denied any such intention.
“This is all rubbish and I am currently with Uddhavsaheb in a meeting,” said Raut.
“This is just a ploy to create confusion in our ranks as they have not been able to demoralise us despite making several such attempts,” he added.
There were also rumours of him meeting deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar but Raut rubbished these rumours as well.
A prominent NCP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said the party would like to get some key Sena leaders on board in the run-up to the civic polls.
The municipal elections for Mumbai, Thane, Pune and other cities are scheduled to be held within a year. The Sena-BJP alliance controls key civic bodies including Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that has annual budget of Rs. 20,000 crore.
For the ruling Congress-NCP alliance it is important to end Sena’s control over the civic bodies so that the party is weakened further.
As the NCP does not have a strong presence in Mumbai, it is keen to get some Sena leaders into its fold and are hence throwing the net on dissidents unhappy with Uddhav Thackeray.