2019 Lok Sabha polls: Shiv Sena toughens stance against Kirit Somaiya
The Shiv Sena is mounting pressure on its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the candidature of sitting MP Kirit Somaiya. The Sena has already registered its objection to re-nominate Somaiya from the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency after the latter’s personal criticism of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray during the 2017 Mumbai civic polls.
The BJP is now considering options to Somaiya as he continues to be unacceptable to the Sena leadership. According to senior BJP leaders, union minister Piyush Goyal and BJP group leader in the civic body Manoj Kotak are being considered for the seat.
The Sena and BJP were at loggerheads from 2014 to early 2019. During this period, Somaiya had attacked Thackeray and Sena on several occasions. While campaigning for the Mumbai civic body elections, Somaiya trained guns directly at Thackeray and his family, questioning how long Mumbai would tolerate the rule of a single family and party. He called for the civic body to be free of ‘mafia raj’. He had also raised questions over Thackeray family’s wealth.
On Thursday, Somaiya sought Thackeray’s appointment to resolve the matter, but he was denied an audience, said Sena functionaries. Prasad Lad, a BJP functionary in Mumbai, who is considered close to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, called on Thackeray, but the Sena did not change its stance.
In a move that would put pressure on the BJP, Sena MLA from Vikhroli, Sunil Raut said he will contest from the Lok Sabha constituency, if BJP gives Somaiya a ticket. Raut, who is the younger brother of Sena leader Sanjay Raut, said the BJP would lose the seat if it re-nominates Somaiya. The constituency has a considerable Marathi population and the votes, according to him, can go against the BJP.
“If Kirit is given the ticket from this seat, the BJP could lose. If they announce any other candidate, we will ensure his victory. We are opposed to Kirit, not the BJP. In the past four years, Kirit has cheated us and therefore Shiv Sainiks in the constituency has decided has come up with a slogan ‘one spirit, no Kirit’. If he is given a ticket, I will fill my nomination from the seat,” Raut said. He added that he will contest as an independent candidate and file a nomination on April 6.
Two of the six Assembly segments under the Mumbai North East constituency are held by the Sena. The Maharashtrians form a major chunk of voters in the constituency. As such, the BJP is cautious while reacting to the Sena’s objections to Somaiya. In 2009, the BJP had lost the seat because the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had taken away a sizeable chunk of Marathi votes.
Meanwhile, Somaiya refused to comment on the issue, when HT sought his reaction.
Keshav Upadhye, BJP spokesperson, said, “Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the BJP Parliamentary Board will take an appropriate decision on the Mumbai North East seat.”