Musical chairs ahead of LS polls | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Musical chairs ahead of LS polls

Jan 15, 2024 06:52 AM IST

Some more defections related to Lok Sabha calculations are expected in the coming days, according to insiders from the ruling camp. For instance, BJP’s assessment says the prospects of its Sangli MP Sanjay Patil are not good

Former Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora’s decision to quit the party and join Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena is linked to various permutations and combinations that the two rival coalitions are working out ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

Musical chairs ahead of LS polls
Musical chairs ahead of LS polls

Deora wanted to contest from south Mumbai, which he fought four times and won twice. However, the Congress has conceded it to Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) since the latter won it in 2019. On the other side of the political divide, the BJP has still not decided on the candidate for south Mumbai—Rahul Narwekar or Mangalprabhat Lodha or anyone else. If speculations are to be believed, Shinde is not sure about renominating north west Mumbai MP Gajanan Kirtikar whose son Amol is likely to be the Sena (UBT) candidate in the constituency. As such, he won’t mind trading that seat with BJP in exchange of south Mumbai. In Deora, he has got a strong candidate for the seat opposite Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Arvind Sawant. BJP would be happy to field a candidate in the Mumbai north west constituency which has Marathi, Gujarati and north Indian voters in significant numbers. If these calculations work out, Deora could be seen seeking votes on the bow and arrow symbol, which was his opponent’s symbol in the past two elections.

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Some more defections related to Lok Sabha calculations are expected in the coming days, according to insiders from the ruling camp. For instance, BJP’s assessment says the prospects of its Sangli MP Sanjay Patil are not good. Among the options could be state NCP chief Jayant Patil’s son Prateek and Congress MLA Vishwajit Kadam. “Don’t be surprised if any of them join our party in the coming days,” said a senior BJP leader.

According to information from the BJP camp, the party is likely to drop several of its MPs. One of them could be Gopal Shetty, BJP’s MP from Mumbai north. Among those who are being considered to replace him are national general secretary Vinod Tawde.

For Thackeray, a dilemma is in south central Mumbai constituency which his party won in 2019 but the sitting MP Rahul Shewale is now with Shinde. Thackeray is keen that Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar should contest from the constituency which has a sizeable Dalit population while Congress wants to field city unit chief Varsha Gaikwad. Ambedkar would prefer Akola where he will have better chances as an MVA candidate.

The BJP in Thane district wants to contest either Thane or Kalyan and has suggested that Shinde’s son Shrikant should shift from his Kalyan constituency to Thane which is currently represented by Thackeray faction’s Rajan Vichare.

From friend to foe

With his verdict in Sena versus Sena disqualification petitions declaring chief minister Eknath Shinde’s faction as the real Shiv Sena, Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar is now the favourite target of opposition parties.

Significantly, Narwekar began his political journey with Shiv Sena and was seen as one of the young leaders recruited by Uddhav Thackeray as Aaditya Thackeray was building his team. He became Sena’s face on television debates due to his fluency in English. He quit the Sena to join NCP in 2014 and contested Lok Sabha constituency unsuccessfully from Maval constituency. Later he was nominated to legislative council. Ahead of 2019 elections, he joined BJP and was elected from Colaba assembly constituency.

Following his verdict, Thackeray faction has now launched a campaign against him. They are pointing out how he himself switched three parties in about a decade. On Friday, Sena (UBT) released a video in which Narwekar was seen standing with other Sena delegates as Uddhav Thackeray was elected as shiv Sena chief in 2013.

Significantly, Narwekar now has a similar task at hand: To deliver verdict on disqualification petitions filed by rival factions of NCP. Ironically, he has was associated with that party too.

Faulty paperwork?

Though Thackeray faction leaders have been pointing out that they did submit the amended party constitution twice, in 2013 and 2018 after internal elections, a section of party leaders are raising question why the persons entrusted with the responsibility of handling the communication with the Election Commission of India (ECI) did not bother to check if it was taken on record by the commission. Narwekar, in his verdict, had said the ECI had the 1999 constitution on record and he referred to the same while deciding which is the real Shiv Sena. Sena leaders Arvind Sawant and Anil Parab have questioned the same showing the media the acknowledgement of ECI on letters sent after Sena’s amended constitution was submitted in 2013 and 2018. They have also said they would put this fact before the Supreme Court. However, the question being asked within the party is: Why did nobody ensure that the ECI had taken the amended constitution on record?

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    Shailesh Gaikwad is political editor and heads the political bureau in Hindustan Times' Mumbai edition.In his career of over 20 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

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