The beleaguered Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) will suffer one of its biggest jolts on Tuesday, as three former legislators are set to quit the party and switch over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The trio -- former Magathane legislator Pravin Darekar, Nashik strongman Vasant Gite and former Kalyan MLA Ramesh Patil – was part of the original 12 MLAs the party had in its spectacular electoral debut in the 2009 Assembly polls. The three of them has contested last year’s assembly polls, but had lost by a huge margin.
What will also hurt party chief Raj Thackeray is the exit of aide and lawyer Akhilesh Chaubey, who became the first north Indian to bag a MNS ticket in the recent assembly polls from Kandivali East constituency. Chaubey, party general secretary of the MNS’ legal cell, has been bailing out Thackeray from the legal tangles arising out of his anti-migrant stance.
While Darekar and Chaubey confirmed the move, Gite and Patil were not available for a comment. However, sources close to the two confirmed that they will be switching to the BJP as well. BJP leaders too confirmed the development.
The leaders have quit the party after its dismal performance in both the general as well as the assembly polls. The party failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha polls and could only manage one assembly seat, against its 13 seats in 2009. After the defeat, the party’s units in many districts across the state had resigned en masse from the party.
Darekar was known to be part of Thackeray’s inner circle and was one of the senior most leaders in the party, while Gite was instrumental in the party’s stronghold over Nashik. Gite may also try and split the party in the Nasik Municipal Corporation, the only civic body where the MNS is the single largest party. Patil’s exit will cost the party dear as the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, where the MNS was the second largest party, goes to polls later this year.
Chaubey, speaking to Hindustan Times on Monday, said, “Leaders have to change their styles of functioning with the changing times. There was immense extortion going on in the party by its representatives, but the senior leadership chose to ignore it. The party, today, is only being run by a handful of people around Thackeray.”
An MNS leader, not wishing to be named, said the exits won’t hurt the party. “They will probably hurt the image of the party but organizationally, Rajsaheb has started a revamp. Hence, it will not matter if some disgruntled elements are purged,” said the leader.