Ahead of assembly polls: Bhujbal, Udayanraje, Nimbalkar, Rane lean towards BJP, Shiv Senahttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-assembly-polls-bhujbal-udayanraje-nimbalkar-rane-lean-towards-bjp-sena-5922190/

Ahead of assembly polls: Bhujbal, Udayanraje, Nimbalkar, Rane lean towards BJP, Shiv Sena

While talks of Bhujbal’s likely return to Shiv Sena folds — he quit the party in 1991 — have also been gaining some ground, a clutch of Sena leaders, including Subhash Desai and Sanjay Raut, have reportedly expressed strong reservations against it.

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Chhagan Bhujbal had quit Shiv Sena in 1991.

AFTER a lull due to flood in parts of the state, the political pitch has started heating up with the BJP and Shiv Sena set to resume their “recruitment drive”. In focus are four top opposition leaders who may join the ruling parties ahead of the Assembly elections.

While speculation over the names of senior NCP leaders Chhagan Bhujbal and Ramraje Nimbalkar, and Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha (MSP) leader Narayan Rane have been doing the rounds over the past few days, Satara NCP MP Udayanraje Bhosale’s meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai Tuesday evening has sent the rumour mill into an overdrive.

Sources in the BJP have claimed that the possibility of Bhosale joining the BJP was discussed in the meeting. “He might resign and seek re-election on a BJP ticket,” a BJP source said.

While talks of Bhujbal’s likely return to Shiv Sena folds — he quit the party in 1991 — have also been gaining some ground, a clutch of Sena leaders, including Subhash Desai and Sanjay Raut, have reportedly expressed strong reservations against it. At a party meeting in Mumbai last month, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had reportedly clarified that there was no contact between the Shiv Sena family and Bhujbal family.

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Bhujbal, who skipped a Congress-NCP meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon, told a television channel later in the day that talks that he would rejoin the Sena were false. “Some other Chhagan Bhujbal must be joining the Sena,” he told mediaperson.

Considered close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Nimbalkar is apparently fed up with his ongoing feud with Bhosale and is likely to join the BJP. Nimbalkar, however, might reconsider his decision to join the ruling party if the Satara MP joins it, his aide said.

MSP leader Rane, meanwhile, has made it clear that he was yet to decide on which party he would join. Though it is widely believed that Rane would join the BJP, he has, so far, remained tight-lipped on the issue. “Wait for a few days,” Rane said.

Saying that everyone will come to know when the new entries happen, BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhaye said, “As of now, we don’t want to say anything.”

A senior BJP leader, however, said Nimbalkar’s entry to BJP has been finalised, but nothing had been finalised about Rane.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also said that while there were speculation, the party would not comment if any of its leaders were planning to quit.