Mumbai: A senior Congress leader claimed here today that the AIMIM naming a candidate for the Bandra bypoll was a BJP ploy for keeping the Congress at bay.
The development comes after the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad -Ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) fielded Siraj Khan as its candidate for the Bandra byelection, a day after the Congress announced Narayan Rane as its nominee.
The bypoll has been necessitated by the demise of Shiv Sena legislator Prakash Sawant. His widow Trupti Sawant filed her nomination today in the presence of Sena leaders.
"BJP fears that if Rane wins the by-election, he will replace Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil as opposition leader in the Maharashtra Assembly," claimed the Congress leader who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Rane, who was opposition leader during the Congress-NCP government in 1999, is known to be a big troublemaker for opposition parties," he said, adding that BJP faces serious trouble inside and outside the House if Rane is made Leader of the Opposition.
"This is why AIMIM is being discreetly supported by BJP," he alleged.
Former MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said that Rane would be an asset for the party in the House and that BJP would stand no chance against his attacks.
However, reacting to the Congress's charge, BJP said it would back Shiv Sena in the Bandra by-poll. "Sena is our ally and we are contesting the by-election together," said BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye, adding, "We have never supported AIMIM in our history and will not be with them".
Meanwhile, Rane said, "I have spent my childhood in building No.3 of the Kherwadi area in Bandra constituency and hence I am confident that voters in Bandra will vote for me."
He said it was his over-confidence that had led to his loss in the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly polls.
Rane's son Nitesh tweeted that AIMIM has once again proved that it is the BJP and Shiv Sena's "B team" and that these parties would help it divide the secular votes, He, however, added at the same time that the Muslim community was smart enough.
AIMIM legislator and party group leader Imtiyaz Jaleel remained unavailable for comments.