In a setback for the BJP, two key party leaders in Nashik joined the Shiv Sena on Friday.
According to sources, the defection of Vasant Gite, a former MLA from the Nashik Central Assembly seat, and Sunil Bagul is expected to weaken the BJP’s influence in the Nashik civic body, which goes to the polls in 2022.
Dubbing their return as “a homecoming of old Shiv Sainiks”, Sena MP and spokesman Sanjay Raut, who presided over Mr. Gite and Mr. Bagul’s entry to the party fold in Nashik, claimed that several more BJP leaders were on their way to joining the Sena.
“The political winds are changing in Nashik…the next Mayor will be from the Shiv Sena,” said Mr. Raut.
Remarking that it was important for the duo’s ‘homecoming’ ceremony to be held in Nashik, Mr. Raut further said that both leaders met Shiv Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s official residence ‘Varsha’ earlier this week.
Mr. Gite and Mr. Bagul will be formally inducted into the Sena in the presence of Mr. Thackeray at a function at the Thackeray family residence ‘Matoshree’ later on Friday.
Mr. Gite had also been the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)’s point man in Nashik before his defection to the BJP in 2014.
In 2017, the BJP swept the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) elections, bagging 66 of the 122 seats. The Sena, the BJP’s estranged saffron ally, had come second, winning 35 seats.