Though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls are a year away, the Shiv Sena has already swung into action and has targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the past two weeks, around half a dozen leaders from the BJP have switched sides to the Sena, which is likely to dent the saffron party’s prospects in several pockets of Mumbai.
On February 5, former Congress MLA-turned-BJP leader Krushna Hegde joined the Sena along with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Juilee Shende. Mr. Hegde, son-in-law of former Sena MLA and ex-mayor Ramesh Prabhoo, is a prominent face to join the party.
“I can proudly say that I am the face of an urban Mumbaikar. Sena is not new to me, but I was extremely impressed with the manner in which Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray handled the State amid the pandemic. I have guaranteed him that I will work to ensure that the saffron flag will continue to fly high on the BMC headquarters,” Mr. Hegde said.
The next day, three-time winner from the Borivali Assembly constituency and former BJP MLA Hemendra Mehta joined the Sena in the presence of Mr. Thackeray. “I have been working with the BJP since the days of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the present BJP leadership is different. I have no intention to work for it. Therefore, I have decided to join the Sena,” Mr. Mehta said.
The Sena has also been organising several programmes to reach out to voters in the Gujarati community. On January 10 this year, the party held its first such programme in Jogeshwari and followed it up with a get-together for the community on February 7 at Malad.
Mr. Mehta and several Gujarati businessmen were in attendance at the event. The BJP had sidelined Mr. Mehta for a few years and the Sena added him to its fold. The BJP has made claims of winning the polls and by inducting disgruntled BJP leaders, the Sena is looking to dent its prospects.
On Monday, close confidants of Kalidas Kolambkar, BJP MLA from Wadala, joined the Sena. Ex-corporator Presila Kadam, BJP leader Anil Kadam and BJP-affiliated BEST union’s working president Vivek Gholap also shifted to the Sena.
“The Sena has been a top party in Mumbai and will remain so. We have begun our preparations for the polls and the BJP is set to face a few more shocks,” said a Sena minister, who is chalking out the party’s poll strategy.