On Monday, two former legislators from Mumbai, the Congress’ Krishna Hegde and MNS’ Mangesh Sangle joined the BJP. Navneet Kaur Rana, a former actor and the NCP’s Lok Sabha elections candidate from Amravati is also likely to join the ruling party. Three other sitting corporators from the Congress, MNS and an independent did so a few days earlier.
The spate of defections to the BJP, ahead of the crucial municipal corporation and zilla parishad polls starting February 16 — dubbed a ‘mini Assembly polls’ as it covers 80% of the state’s voters — bodes well for the party that has emerged on top in all elections held in the past two years.
Hegde and actor Dilip Tahil joined the BJP in the presence of CM Devendra Fadnavis at his official residence.
Hegde’s defection came as a jolt for the Congress. He blamed Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam for ignoring loyalists. “Those who worked against the party in the Assembly polls are being favoured, loyalists are sidelined. If the party does not want my services, it’s better I quit.” A second generation Congressman, Hegde was a student leader groomed by actor-turned-politician Sunil Dutt.
Sangle, former MNS legislator elected from Vikhroli, also jumped ship. Sangle began as an MNS corporator in 2007. The MNS played down his defection. “He hardly contributed,” said party secretary Sachin More. Congress corporator Parminder Singh Bhamra from Malad and MNS corporator Bhalchandra Ambure from Jogeshwari also joined the BJP. Independent Leena Shukla joined the BJP in the presence of Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar on Monday. Navneet Kaur Rana, the wife of independent legislator Ravi Rana who supports BJP in the Assembly, is also considering joining the party. Ravi Rana said his wife was not happy in NCP. “CM Fadnavis and BJP leaders want her join BJP, but we have yet to decide.” People close to Rana said the BJP offered her candidature for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
More and more sulking leaders have joined the BJP since last year. Former NCP leader Prasad Lad joined the party in April , followed by NCP leader Nilay Naik, the grandson of former CM Vasantrao Naik. But can the BJP accommodate them? Party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said they are being accommodated on the BJP’s terms.
Congress corporator Waqarunnisa Ansari joined AIMIM. “Despite working so hard for the past decade, Congress declined me a ticket.” Congress legislator Amin Patel called Ansari a party-hopper. “We have not decided and she was being considered.” AIMIM denied giving a ticket assurance to Ansari. “We have not promised anything,” said AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan.