Nirupam, Shaikh on BJP-Sena radar?
Both leaders deny any talk of joining Sena and BJP respectively, but insiders say recent developments suggest otherwise
While parties gear up for the upcoming Assembly elections, speculations are rife about two senior leaders of Mumbai Congress being on their way to the ruling parties of the state.
One of the leaders whose name is making the rounds is former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam, who is said to have got feelers from the Shiv Sena. The other leader is the party's sitting MLA from Malad west, Aslam Shaikh, who the people in the know say is being tapped by the BJP. But Shaikh's induction is supposedly being delayed because of opposition from BJP leaders in his constituency.
Nirupam was removed unceremoniously as the Mumbai Congress chief ahead of the Lok Sabha (LS) election, with sources saying he was unhappy with the affairs of the city unit that he headed since early 2015 till the beginning of LS campaign this year. He has been Sena's Rajya Sabha and Congress's LS member in the past. He lost a LS election in 2014 (Mumbai North) and 2019 (Mumbai North-West).
'Not going anywhere'
Nirupam said it was true that he was not happy with the affairs of the city unit. "But that does not mean that I will quit Congress," Nirupam told mid-day, adding that his detractors in the party were misleading the media. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not aware of any offer Sena made to me. I'm not in touch with Sena and I don't know if they are thinking about me," he said.
However, well-informed sources said a senior Sena leader and a close relative of the Thackeray family were in touch with Nirupam, while another senior Sena leader told mid-day he wasn't aware of the development.
Complaint against Shaikh
Regarding Shaikh, sources said getting him onboard will be a great success for the ruling party because of his victory prospects. A section of the media had reported that Shaikh would go to Sena, but if recent developments are to be believed, BJP leaders in Malad west have learnt about a senior party leader's intention of getting the MLA onboard ahead of the polls. To oppose his induction, a section of local leaders have reported to the seniors that Shaikh should not be given space in the party because he had openly sought mercy for Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon. When mid-day spoke to Shaikh, he feigned ignorance about any offer being made and denied his willingness to switch to BJP. "There is nothing like this. The people in BJP who have any grievance against me should relax," he said.
More Cong leaders to join
Meanwhile, on Friday, Sena inducted Dhanraj Mahale, a leader from Dindori in Nashik, who is an ex-MLA of the NCP. Mahale joined NCP ahead of LS polls and returned to Sena within months. He contested unsuccessfully from Dindori against BJP's Bharati Pawar. BJP is likely to induct a host of Congress leaders, sitting and former legislators from Dhule and Nandurbar districts in the coming days, possibly ahead of the second leg of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's Mahajanadesh Yatra, which begins on August 21.
Matondkar, for your consideration
For the Assembly polls, actor Urmila Matondkar is being tipped as the Congress candidate from Bandra west against school education minister Ashish Shelar, while former legislator Baba Siddiqui has asked a ticket for his son from the same constituency. Matondkar shot into the political limelight when she was fielded from the Mumbai North LS constituency against BJP's Gopal Shetty. Shetty won by a handsome margin, but in Matondkar, Congress discovered a fighter of sorts who created ripples with her oratory skills during the campaign. The actor is working in the flood-affected districts of western Maharashtra, where she has taken relief material. She did not respond to mid-day's text messages. Congress sources said it would decide on the segment next week.
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