Just days before the civic election, the Shiv Sena suffered a jolt in several electoral wards on Thursday as three senior local faces defected to rival party BJP, while an internal rebellion in the ranks rocked the party at two other places. The BJP poached Sena leaders even as all parties struggled to deal with rebellion, a day before the deadline to file nominations comes to an end on Friday.
Sena leaders Sanjay Ambole from Parel and Dinesh Panchal from Chembur, both sitting corporators, and Prabhakar Shinde from Mulund, who has been a corporator multiple times and a former chairman of the BMC standing committee joined the BJP. All three quit the Sena owing to disagreements over candidature allotments for the election. What came as a surprise in the city’s political circles is the defection of leaders like Ambole and Shinde, regarded as hardcore sainiks, who rose in the Sena ranks over the years. In the form of Ambole, the BJP has got a face in the Marathi heartland of Parel-Lalbaug, which has been a Sena bastion. The BJP gave candidature to Ambole’s wife Tejasvini from Parel’s ward number 203.
Ambole said, “I had a lot of friction with the local Sena legislator who would call for meetings for civic works without my knowledge, and even claim credit for the work I had done. I consulted all my followers and Sainiks, and they affirmed their support to me irrespective of which party I am associated with. I am not upset with the Sena though.”
Panchal said, “There has been grave injustice to me within the Sena. I have done a lot of work for my ward [ward number 144] and earned ample goodwill. With my ward now being reserved as a women’s ward, I was pushing for a Sena ticket for my wife, but the party decided to give it to parliamentarian Rahul Shewale’s wife, Kamini, instead. So, I decided I won’t take it lying low.”
Both Panchal and his wife will now contest on a BJP ticket, with his wife, Anita Panchal, promised the coveted ward number 144 (comprising areas of Deonar and Mankhurd) and Panchal to be fielded from ward number 141 (Annabhau Sathe nagar, Zakir Hussain nagar in Chembur).
Shinde, a senior leader from Mulund, said, “The way seats for this election have been allotted in Mulund has deeply disturbed me. All Shiv Sainiks from the area are upset.”
He said the party has chosen candidates with dubious financial and political histories. “The party has given a ticket to the wife of a person who had once protested against our leader Balasaheb Thackeray and burnt copies of Saamana. In another case, in Mulund the Sena has chosen a candidate who jumped to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena before coming back to the Sena. Then someone from the Nationalist Congress Party, who went to the BJP and came to Sena just eight months ago, has been chosen as a candidate.” Shinde, however, maintained he does not know if the BJP is offering him candidature for the upcoming BMC elections.
To avoid more rebellion in the ranks and prevent defections, none of the political parties in the fray released a complete list of candidates, with just 24 hours to go for the final date of filing nominations. The Congress, too, released a partial list earlier this week, and then kept any further disclosures on hold. The parties mostly communicated their decision directly to the candidates chosen and handed over their party nomination forms.
Besides the defections, there was anger within the Shiv Sena’s ranks in at least two places —Mahalaxmi and Wadala — as local Sainiks were upset with the party’s official choice of candidate. At Worli, a few local Shiv Sainiks and the shakha pramukh objected to the candidature of Sena corporator Kishori Pednekar from ward number 199 (Arthur Road jail, Dhobi Ghat area).
Rajesh Kusale, head of the Sena Shakha, said, “Nearly 70% of the Shiv Sainiks attached to this ward are upset with the decision. We were pushing for my wife, Rupal Kusale, to get a Sena ticket because I have worked diligently and built up the Sena’s presence in this ward as shakha pramukh for 19 years. But the vibhag pramukh and the local Sena legislator swayed the top leadership and got a ticket for Pednekar instead, who has nothing to do with this ward.”
Kusale said, “We have been trying to meet our party chief for a month to express our wish and resentment with what has been happening. We even tried to go once, but were driven away like dogs.”
Similarly, in the Dadar-Wadala, local Sena leaders were dismayed with the candidature of ward number 178 (Hindu colony, Parsi colony, Kohinoor mills area) given to Yuva Sena leader Amey Ghole, known to be part of Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray’s coterie. The local cadre locked up the shakha office in protest.
In another blow, former mayor Shubha Raul, a three-time corporator from the Sena, decided not to contest this time, making way for a new face, sitting Sena corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar’s wife Tejasvee.
“I had declared my intention not to contest elections anymore three years ago, but the party leadership was still persuasive. There is no end to politics. We need to make way for new faces, new brains and creativity,” Raul said.