Navi Mumbai’s Naiks on way from NCP to BJP?
Within a week of the exit of its Mumbai city president Sachin Ahir, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is likely to get a major jolt in Navi Mumbai, as senior leader and party strongman Ganesh Naik may join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with his son and MLA Sandip Naik.
Speculation is rife that the Naiks will join the saffron party along with 52 NCP corporators from the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC). With the strength of 52 corporators and support of five independent corporators, the NCP is ruling the 111-seat NMMC.
On Monday, at least 48 NCP corporators from the NMMC, in a meeting at mayor’s bungalow at Parsik Hill in Navi Mumbai, decided to join the BJP for the sake of development. Sandip is likely to join the BJP on July 31, while Ganesh Naik will join later. The BJP has also declared that several legislators from the Congress and NCP are joining the party on July 31.
Naik and his son Sandip didn’t respond to calls or messages. Another son and former MP Sanjiv Naik, too, remained unavailable for a comment.
With Naik’s defection, the BJP is likely to take control of the NMMC from the NCP.
NCP Navi Mumbai city president Anant Sutar confirmed the meeting and a decision taken by the NCP corporators. He said, “Our corporators have requested me to convey to our leader Ganesh Naik that there is a need to change the party for the sake of development of Navi Mumbai. The corporators have shown a preference for the BJP, as they feel it will be easier to ensure progress of the city. I will inform Naik about their sentiments. He will decide the course of action. The corporators are with him and will abide by his decision.”
A party insider said on Monday, Ganesh Naik didn’t take calls made by state NCP chief Jayant Patil and senior leader Ajit Pawar.
A former Shiv Sena leader, Naik has been dominating the politics of Navi Mumbai for more than two decades. He was made a Shiv Sena group leader in the Assembly after Chhagan Bhujbal defected to the Congress. A resourceful and influential leader, Naik was seen as a chief ministerial contender in the run-up to the 1995 elections. In 1998, he had differences with then Sena chief Bal Thackeray and floated his separate outfit and contested the 1999 Assembly polls, but lost. He then joined the NCP and was made a minister post 2004 Assembly elections. He remained a minister till 2014 and retained his hold over the Navi Mumbai civic body. His elder son Sanjiv was Thane MP in 2009.
In 2014 Assembly elections, he lost the Belapur assembly seat to BJP’s Manda Mhatre. In the recently held Lok Sabha elections, NCP candidate Anand Paranjpe got more than 39,000 votes less than the Shiv Sena candidate Rajan Vichare from Belapur Assembly constituency.
Meanwhile, state BJP president and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil declared that some leaders are joining the BJP. He, however, did not give the names. “Let me invite everyone to come to Garware Pavilion on July 31. Many other party leaders will join the BJP in big numbers. People are joining us because they trust us and they know we don’t play dirty politics. As the CM (Devendra Fadnavis) said, NCP chief Sharad Pawar should think why his party’s leaders are joining us,” said Patil.
The turn of events is similar to what has happened in December 2014. A similar meeting was then called at Vishnudas Bhave auditorium in Vashi and same demand was made by Naik’s supporters. They had then asked Naik to take a decision in the interest of Navi Mumbai, as the NMMC elections were due in four months. The meeting was held in the backdrop of Naik’s loss in the 2014 Assembly elections. However, following a meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Naik decided to remain with the NCP.