A DAY after Shiv Sena MP Shrirang Barne and party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe were reported to have had a “showdown” during a meeting convened by Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai, BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap challenged Barne on Tuesday to contest from Maval parliamentary constituency in the next general elections and “prove his mettle”.
Jagtap had lost the Maval seat to Barne in the 2014 polls with a margin of over 1.50 lakh votes. Maval has been a Shiv Sena stronghold. Barne, however, said he will respond to the challenge on Wednesday. According to sources, the development has caused some confusion in both the parties about “who was going in which direction.”
Jagtap said, “In the 2014 general elections, Barne won the Maval seat on a Sena ticket because of the Modi wave… Subsequently, in PCMC and Panvel municipal elections, the Sena was humiliated by the BJP. Even in municipal council, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections, Barne could not save Sena from the embarrassment of being rejected by the voters.”
He added that Barne was trying to shift his loyalties to another party. “BJP is on the ascendancy while the Sena is trailing. That’s why Barne is trying to create fissures in the Sena, dump the party and join another,” said Jagtap, who is also the president of BJP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit.
Jagtap said Barne should contest from the Sena seat and prove his mettle. “BJP workers and disgruntled Shiv Sainiks will show Barne his place,” he added.
Last week, The Indian Express had reported about Barne being in touch with top BJP leaders and his meeting with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. Barne, however, refused to comment on the matter.
On Tuesday, a BJP leader from Pimpri-Chinchwad interpreted Jagtap’s statement as a desperate bid to stop Barne from getting into the BJP. “Barne has been in touch with top BJP leaders in Delhi. That has worried Jagtap who has been positioning himself to contest the next general elections from Maval seat,” he said.
Political analysts said the Jagtap camp was worried, adding that “the leader recently met Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe in a bid to stop Barne”. An analyst said, “This, apparently, is a pressure tactic from Jagtap on his own party leadership. He seems to be trying to hint that his options, too, are open for joining the Sena in case Barne is given an entry into the BJP.”
Jagtap, meanwhile, said, “Not much should be read into the meeting with Gorhe, as I have been wishing her on her birthday for the last four to five years.” Barne, however, said he would comment later, as he was busy in a meeting in Mumbai. A few hours later, Barne said he would respond on Wednesday. His associate said, “Await a befitting reply from the MP tomorrow…”
Barne added that he had met Uddhav Thackeray in Matoshree on Monday. “Without me broaching the topic, Uddhav said he has been hearing rumours about some party MPs and MLAs joining other parties… Uddhav said ‘I know all these are rumours’,” he said.
Meanwhile, both Barne and Gorhe have denied their reported “verbal spat” in Matoshree.
Gorhe didn’t respond to calls from this paper on Tuesday, but issued a press statement, saying, “There was no quarrel between the two of us as some sections of the media believed. We are both party colleagues and there is no dispute between us.” Barne, on his part, said, “Things have been blown out of proportion…”