Two Shiv Sena MPs, Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil and Shrirang Barne, are planning to join the BJP, Maharashtra state BJP leaders have claimed, putting further strain on the already frosty relationship between the NDA partners.
Adhalrao himself dismissed the talks as “speculation” while Barne said he could not confirm or deny such reports. But BJP leaders in Pune claimed that these MPs were in touch with their top leaders, including party president Amit Shah.
“Both the leaders are trying to walk in to the BJP fold. They have been meeting top leaders of the party. A fortnight back, Adhalrao went for dinner diplomacy with Nitin Gadkari in Delhi. Barne keeps meeting party leaders and ministers regularly in Delhi,” Eknath Pawar, BJP’s western Maharashtra coordinating chief, said.
Reports about the possible switch by Adhalrao-Patil, who has been thrice elected as an MP (first from Khed and twice from Shirur in Pune district), and first-time MP Barne, have been doing the rounds for quite some time. They are said to be constantly in touch with top BJP leaders, including Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, Adhalrao-Patil shares good rapport with the PM, which he has publicly acknowledged.
Pawar said Adhalrao seemed more keen to join the BJP because he knew that the Sena was weakening. “Of the six assembly seats in Shirur, the BJP has presence in four of them while the Sena has the only seat. Similarly, in Bhosari seat, of the 44 corporators, not a single Sena candidate could win. This clearly shows that Sena’s prowess in Shirur is on the wane. Small wonder then that Adhalrao is trying to switch sides to keep his political fortunes intact,” he claimed.
The BJP currently has 23 MPs from Maharashtra – its highest tally ever in the state. Likewise, the Sena has 18 MPs, the maximum it could grab since its formation 50 years back. BJP leaders in the state have been talking about sweeping the state in the next general elections. The party is said to be preparing the strategies for the seats it has never won before. One such seat is the Shirur parliamentary constituency where Adhalrao as Sena nominee has won with massive margins. Maval seat, which the Sena had been consistently winning, is another victory the BJP has been eyeing. Sena’s Barne is the first-time MP from Maval.
BJP is looking at Bhosari MLA Mahesh Landge to contest from from Shirur Lok Sabha seat. Similarly, Chinchwad MLA Laxman Jagtap is said to be keen to contest Maval Lok Sabha seat.
Adhalrao said the speculation about his switch to the BJP was being spread by “vested interests”. “I am very much in the Sena and will continue to do so,” he said. Asked about his proximity to PM Modi, he said, “I know him even before he became the PM. It is true that I keep meeting him, but it is always about issues relating to my constituency or of national or state importance,” he said.
Barne said that some people keep talking about him because of his performance. “I am a performing MP and that’s why they keep speculating about me…” Asked specifically whether he was joining the BJP, Barne said, “No comments.”
When contacted, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said, “This is a political game played by the party’s rivals to confuse the voters. Both MPs are strong Sena leaders elected from the seats where the party has always held an upper hand. And, because of this, attempts are being made to create confusion among voters…We don’t attach any importance to this…”