In a major setback to the Shiv Sena-Republican Party of India (Athawale) alliance, two out of the three sitting RPI(A) corporators defected to the Congress on Monday – just months before the civic elections in early 2012. However, the RPI(A) maintains that the corporators had been sacked for indulging in anti-party activities.
Corporators Gautam Sabale from M-West ward and Sujata Waghmare from the M-East ward joined the Congress.
The corporators said they jumped ship because they were opposed to the party’s alliance with Sena. Sabale said, “The party had been insulting Waghmare and me. They did not consult us when they decided to tie up with the Sena. Such an alliance was unacceptable to us.”
Congress senior leader Sameer Desai confirmed the move. “The corporators were disgruntled over their party affairs and hence, decided to shift to the Congress. This proves that no leader including Ramdas Athawale can stake claim to a particular community’s votes.”
RPI(A) leaders, however, claim the corporators were dismissed. The lone RPI(A) corporator, Babasaheb Bansode, said, “This decision was taken after they voted for the Congress candidate in the ward committee elections. They had voted for the Congress in 2010 too. Hence, we had to sack them.”
HT had reported on April 21 how these corporators had voted for the Congress candidate contesting the M-ward committee elections in April, instead of the RPI candidate.
Senior Sena-BJP leaders said they had been expecting this move. “We were expecting the Congress to poach on RPI(A) corporators before the elections. Unfortunately, such a defection shows Athawale’s loosening grip on his party”, said a senior BJP corporator.