48 hrs after Shah’s Maharashtra visit, 7 BJP councillors defect to Sena

Barely 48 hours after the visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah here, the Bharatiya Janata Party got a jolt when at least 7 councillors quit the party to join the Shiv Sena, party officials said here on Tuesday.

The 7 councillors are from Vaibhavwadi Nagar Panchayat which is currently ruled by the supporters of BJP Rajya Sabha MP and party strongman Narayan Rane.

The shock development came after some of the councillors alleged they are quitting the BJP as they could no long bear the ‘harassment’ meted out by the Rane family members.

These 7 councillors are expected to join the Shiv Sena in the presence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray shortly in Mumbai.

Kankavali BJP MLA Nitesh Rane acknowledged the development in a sarcastic Valentine’s Day message to Thackeray.

“Dear Uddhavji, Happy Valentine Day!”, said Nitesh Rane in a social media video post.

“Shiv Sena is our old love…It’s said that you should never forget your old flame… Our ideal was always the late Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray… We respected him yesterday, today and will do so even in future,” Nitesh Rane said.

He added that in order to ensure that the Shiv Sena of Balasaheb Thackeray should not fall apart, the BJP was sending “these 7 councillors”.

“Moreover, the CM Thackeray had very promptly cleared the files of our medical college (which was inaugurated by Shah on Feb. 7) We are not in a position to give him anything, but we are gifting these 7 councillors which we humbly request him to accept,” Nitesh Rane added.

Slamming the 7 defectors, he said the Sena is in such a state in Sindhudurg that it has no candidates to nominate for the Vaibhavwadi Nagar Panchayat polls.

Local party leaders pointed out that the tenure of the Vaibhavwadi Nagar Panchayat has ended and the exit of these councilors would have no impact on the BJP which ruled 17-1 in the civic body, but in the next polls, the party would bag it 17-0 since “the muck has gone”.

For the BJP, this is another in a series of shocks it has suffered in the past few days with walkovers to the Sena, barely a year before the crucial BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation elections due in Feb. 2022.

Last week, a Mumbai BJP Vice-President and former Congress MLA Krishna Hegde and a BJP ex-MLA Hemendra Mehta, followed by two former municipal corporators in Mumbai, Sameer Desai and Priscilla Kadam, other senior leaders like Anil Kadam, Vivek Gholap, all quit the BJP to join the Sena.

Smug Sena leaders hint that this is just the ‘beginning’ and there will be a lot of incoming traffic from the BJP in the near future.