Lok Sabha elections | BJP in a spot in north Maharashtra as disgruntled Jalgaon MP likely to defect to Thackeray’s Sena

The disgruntled Unmesh Patil, a first-time MP from Jalgaon, was denied a ticket this time in favour of his party colleague Smita Wagh, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council

April 03, 2024 03:38 am | Updated 03:38 am IST - Pune

BJP’s sitting MP from Jalgaon, Unmesh Patil.

BJP’s sitting MP from Jalgaon, Unmesh Patil. | Photo Credit: Veeru Kadam

Trouble is brewing for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Mahayuti allies in north Maharashtra amid speculation that the BJP’s sitting MP from Jalgaon, Unmesh Patil, is planning to switch over to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT).

The disgruntled Mr. Patil, a first-time MP from Jalgaon, was denied a ticket this time in favour of his party colleague Smita Wagh, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council.

Mr. Patil reached Mumbai on April 2 where he conferred with Mr. Thackeray and Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut. He is expected to join the Sena (UBT) on Wednesday and could be declared as the party’s candidate for the Jalgaon seat, said sources.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Raut said that Mr. Patil had met him and expressed what was in his mind.

“He, along with several of his followers are intent on join the Sena (UBT). Everything will be clear by Wednesday,” Mr. Raut said.

Mr. Patil, while refusing to elaborate on his future course of action, merely said he met with Mr. Raut as both of them had been friends during their time as MPs in Delhi.

Also read | BJP discusses seat sharing pact for Maharashtra with Sena, NCP

“This meeting was to show that there is friendship beyond politics…all will be clear in good time,” Mr. Patil said, while refusing to answer why such ‘friendly’ meetings only happened just ahead of the general elections.

Despite Jalgaon being a BJP stronghold, the party has struggled with the choice of its candidates, as evinced in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Ahead of the last general election, the BJP, in a eleventh hour decision, had replaced Ms. Wagh, who had already been announced as her party’s candidate for the Jalgaon Lok Sabha seat, with Mr. Unmesh Patil, then an MLA from Chalisgaon.

The move had upset Ms. Wagh, a BJP loyalist who was said to be close to then senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, now in the Sharad Pawar-led NCP.

Her husband Uday Wagh, then president of the BJP’s Jalgaon district unit, had dubbed the decision as akin to “cold-blooded murder”.

Incidentally, the BJP had earlier announced Ms. Wagh’s candidature for the 2019 Lok Sabha election by dropping its two-time sitting MP, A.T. Nana Patil, sparking disgruntlement among Mr. Nana Patil’s supporters.

At the time, it was said that while Ms. Wagh had a strong hold on her constituency, most local BJP (and Shiv Sena) leaders harboured deep-seated grudges against her husband, Mr. Wagh, who was reportedly unpopular owing to his abrasive behaviour.

In a bid to quell factionalism within the party’s Jalgaon unit, Unmesh Patil was chosen as the replacement candidate at the time. He was said to be the pick of BJP Minister Girish Mahajan, who calls the shots in Jalgaon district which is considered to be his bastion.

If Mr. Unmesh Patil does join the Sena (UBT), it would be a big setback for the BJP.

Meanwhile, the tussle between the Mahayuti over the adjoining Nashik Lok Sabha seat continues with sitting MP Hemant Godse (of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena) upset with his party for not having declared his candidacy as yet.

Mr. Godse’s candidature is being opposed by local BJP leaders and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, which is eager for its senior leader and Maharashtra Minister Chhagan Bhujbal to be given the Nashik seat.

On Tuesday, Mr. Godse dashed off to Mumbai to confer with CM Eknath Shinde.

“Nashik has traditionally been a seat on which Shiv Sena has contested. The decision on who gets the seat will be taken on basis of elective merit. However, the first preference will be given to the Shiv Sena as seat belongs to us,” said Mr. Godse, a two-term MP from Nashik.

Jalgaon goes to polls in the fourth phase on May 13 while Nashik will go in the fifth phase on May 20.

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