Exodus of ex-corporators fuels Shinde faction’s momentum ahead of LS polls | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Exodus of ex-corporators fuels Shinde faction’s momentum ahead of LS polls

Mar 09, 2024 08:18 AM IST

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is strategically inducting former corporators from opposition parties into Shiv Sena at his official residence, Varsha, to boost support for the upcoming elections.

Since June 2023, chief minister Eknath Shinde’s Malabar Hill-based official residence, Varsha, has become a venue for hurriedly held events to induct former corporators - 60 so far - from opposition parties, especially his friend-turned-rival Uddhav Thackeray’s faction, into Shiv Sena.

Exodus of ex-corporators fuels Shinde faction’s momentum ahead of LS polls
Exodus of ex-corporators fuels Shinde faction’s momentum ahead of LS polls

These ex-corporators have switched sides for reasons that vary from the possibility of winning the next civic elections, which is uncertain, to concerns over not getting tickets, financial constraints, and internal discontent within their parties.

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However, for Shinde and his camp, it’s about changing people’s perception, amidst the build-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Even after receiving the recognition as the original Shiv Sena and the party symbol, bow and arrow, Shinde has been struggling to build a political-organisational base in Mumbai. And there is only reason - for people, Shiv Sena means Thackeray and Thackeray means Shiv Sena.

To overcome this, the CM has worked out a plan to poach former corporators who come with their readymade set-up of party workers, election management skills, and direct access to a few thousand voters in their wards. The Shinde faction believes these defectors will help in micro-management of voting in their areas in the Lok Sabha polls and will also dent the Thackeray camp’s vote base.

Notably, 30 of these turncoats hail from Shiv Sena (UBT). Sixteen of them served at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) between 2017 and 2022 while the remaining 14 were elected as corporators in the 2012 polls.

Among the prominent faces, who aligned with Shinde’s party, are Yashwant Jadhav, former chairperson of the BMC’s standing committee, MLA Dilip Lande, who was also a corporator, Sheetal Mhatre, Ameya Ghole, former health committee chairperson and once a close associate of Aaditya Thackeray, Parmeshwar Kadam, Datta Narvankar, Atmaram Chache, and Samadhan Sarvankar, son of Dadar-Mahim MLA Sada Sarvankar. Lande and Jadhav, the latter’s spouse and MLA Yamini, aligned with Shinde during his coup in 2022.

Every assembly constituency has around six to seven civic wards and every Lok Sabha constituency has six assembly constituencies under its jurisdiction. On average, every Lok Sabha constituency in Mumbai has around 36 wards represented by corporators.

Mhatre, spokesperson for Shinde’s Shiv Sena, said former corporators will play their part in micro-management of voting during the Lok Sabha elections. “The CM is known as man who supports development work. Besides, he is reachable and stands by his team. So, in the one-and-a-half years, about 60 former corporators have joined the party to do developmental work in their areas. Around 40 of them were corporators during 2017-2022 and the remaining 20 were corporators during 2012-2017.”

In a first, people saw a CM who is working on the roads of Mumbai, she said.

“Other than the party organisation and ideology, most of the corporators have direct access to around 2,000 to 4,000 voters. In the coming Lok Sabha elections, these former corporators will encourage voters to go with the party and the Mahayuti (three-party ruling alliance),” she said and added the perception that Thackeray means Shiv Sena will change after the parliamentary polls.

In the 2017 BMC elections, Shiv Sena secured 84 seats, closely trailed by the BJP with 82 seats. While Congress obtained 29 seats, NCP won 9, MNS got 7, and the Samajwadi Party bagged 6 seats.

Ashish Chemburkar, former Worli corporator from Sena (UBT), said the prime reason for defection was their fear that they would be denied a party ticket.

Ghole, who represented ward number 178 in Wadala, alleged that obstacles were created by former mayor Shraddha Jadhav and Shiv Sena secretary Suraj Chavan in his work.

On the other hand, the Thackeray faction has started promoting new leadership in those wards where its former corporators have sided with Shinde’s faction.

“After the former corporators left the party and joined hands with the CM, party chief Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders have started to promote new leadership in those wards. They will work to counter those defectors and the possible impact of their defection on voting in the LS elections,” a leader from Sena (UBT) said and admitted that it will be a challenge for the party.

Arvind Sawant, MP and chief spokesperson for Sena (UBT), said his party has the upper hand within the BMC jurisdiction due to its organisational structure and shakhas. “A few corporators have left the party but party workers and local leaders are with us. So, there would be no significant effect on the voting patterns in the Lok Sabha elections. People will vote for Thackeray and the party ideology. Party organisational leaders and the new aspirants for the BMC elections will counter the former corporators at the ward level in micro-management of voting.”

Ravi Raja, former opposition leader in the BMC and Congress leader, said, “People have left due to discontent with the present incumbent and there are no funds available. Those with Shinde have got 9.5 crore in funds compared to 3 crore for those who have switched to the BJP. Out of 29 corporators, 11 have left Congress. The remaining 18 corporators are from minority communities. They might also leave after the Lok Sabha election dates are declared.”

Even former corporators from minority communities are switching sides. Former AIMIM corporator of ward no.145 in Anushakti Nagar, Shahnawaz Shaikh, joined Shinde’s Shiv Sena in December 2023.

On February 27, Akhtar Qureshi, a former corporator from the Samajwadi Party in Govandi, joined Shinde’s camp. He said, “I was ignored for four months, and party workers were troubling me. I complained to MLA Abu Azmi, but he refused to address my concerns. If not him, who could look into my issues? My ego was hurt, and I felt humiliated; hence I quit the party.”

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