Politician Prasad Lad, who shook the city's political scene when he gave a Congress nominee a run for his money in the Legislative Council polls three months ago — following a tacit understanding with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — has decided to make his association with the saffron party official.
The former Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader will join the ruling party at its state executive in Nashik on Sunday. Sources said Lad's induction would also pave way for at least 10 BMC corporators and some directors of the cash-rich Mumbai District Central Co-operative Bank.
Speaking to mid-day, Lad confirmed that he would be joining the BJP on Sunday. "I will be inducted into the BJP tomorrow. I don't want to say much about this. I will talk about it after I become an official member of the party," said the leader who had contested the 2014 Assembly polls as an NCP candidate from Sion-Koliwada. He was also chairman of MHADA's Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board in the erstwhile government.
When Lad, then in the NCP, rebelled to challenge Congress' Bhai Jagtap in a civic segment of the state Legislative Council late last year, the BJP pulled out its candidate Manoj Kotak from the race, in order to offer extra firepower to Lad. The Congress was upset because it had a poll-alliance with the NCP. As a face-saving exercise, Lad quit the NCP. The politician fell two votes short of beating Jagtap, else he would have caused a big upset. It was this election, however, that brought him closer to the BJP.
Sources in the BJP said that after Lad joins the party, it would draft BMC corporators, some from NCP and independents, ahead of the civic polls. These corporators had voted for Lad in the Council polls. They have elective merit, and if fielded on BJP's ticket, they would add to BJP's numbers in the BMC next year. Strength-wise the BJP is number three in the BMC and has alliance with the single largest party Shiv Sena. The Congress is second in representation.
"The induction will be held in a phased manner. Lad's entry will start the exodus to the BJP," said a senior BJP leader. People close to Lad said that he was trying to get some legislator friends to join the BJP.
Some Mumbai bank directors, who are closely associated with its chairman Pravin Darekar, are also expected to join the BJP soon. Ex-MNS legislator Darekar had shifted his loyalty to the BJP last year. Getting the bank under its control is the BJP's top priority because the bank is a state-wide leader among district cooperative banks, said sources. The BJP has a plan in place to displace the NCP and Congress, which has had a stronghold in the state's cooperative sector.