Shiv Sena gets one step closer to its 'Mission 151'

Updated: 12 August, 2020 07:07 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Inducts independent min Shankarrao Gadakh into party; his entry is expected to boost party in politically sensitive Ahmednagar district where it drew a blank in the Assembly polls

Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray inducts Soil and Conservation Minister Shankarrao Gadakh into the party
Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray inducts Soil and Conservation Minister Shankarrao Gadakh into the party

While speculations are rife over a possibility of defections between the ruling and opposition parties, the Shiv Sena claimed a prize catch from among the independents supporting the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Claiming the move was a strategic part of the party's 'Mission 151 for the year 2024', the Sena inducted Soil and Water Conservation Minister Shankarrao Gadakh into the party fold on Tuesday, giving itself a big boost in the Ahmednagar district where it doesn't have a single MLA.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray welcomed Gadakh to the Sena at his Kalanagar residence. The Sena secretary and Thackeray's personal assistant, Milind Narvekar, engineered Gadakh's move. Gadakh, an independent from Nevasa, had extended support to the Sena after the 2019 elections. Sena president Thackeray made him a cabinet minister when the MVA came into power.

The former Nationalist Congress Party leader won the 2009 Assembly polls. Later, in association with his former Lok Sabha member father Yashwantrao Gadakh, he formed a local front Krantikari Shetkari Paksh, which has a sizable presence in the district. His father, also a well-known author, is a former member of Congress and NCP. Gadakh's father and brothers will also join Sena at a function in Nevasa later this year.

Narvekar told mid-day that the Sena aims to win 151 seats in the next Assembly elections. "We have set a target for ourselves and many influential leaders are expected to join us. Gadakh's entry will strengthen the party in Ahmednagar district where there are two Lok Sabha and 12 assembly seats. Gadakh will be in-charge of all these seats," he said.

Gadakh's induction was executed without creating any buzz and suggested that the Sena has been working behind the scenes to get many in its fold even as rumours of the breaking of the MVA keep doing the rounds. According to a party leader, two more major leaders are expected to join the Sena soon.

Politically sensitive district
A powerhouse in the cooperative movement, Ahmednagar is a very socio-politically sensitive region with all four major parties having their stakes deeply rooted. The BJP-Sena combination has ruled the roost in the twin Ahmednagar and Shirdi Lok Sabha segments.

The BJP snapped a senior Congress leader, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil before the last Assembly polls, and before the father's official defection, had successfully fielded his son Sujay from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha. Sena won the neighbouring Shirdi. But Sena failed in the Assembly polls despite being in alliance with the BJP. The NCP walked away with five Assembly seats and rest were distributed among the BJP, Congress and independents.

Also Read: Shiv Sena, Congress leaders urge CM Uddhav Thackeray to extend loan moratorium

Arch-rivals
Vikhe Patil's departure caused the emergence of his arch-rival Balasaheb Thorat as the Congress's strong leader who now heads the party in the MVA. The district also gave NCP a new MLA from the Pawar family, Rohit Pawar from Karjat-Jamkhed. The BJP faced internal turmoil because of the Vikhe-Patil family's dominance. Recently, the Sena was upset when the NCP got some of its local elected representatives inducted.

The issue ended after the NCP sent the defectors back to Sena, which needed some big leader who can steer its affairs as its veteran Anil Rathod passed away recently and others were sulking because of defeats. Gadakh is expected to help the party rise against the might of Vikhe, Thorat and Rohit Pawar, who sooner or later should be controlling the district. NCP's veteran Dilip Walse Patil is the district's guardian minister.

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First Published: 12 August, 2020 07:00 IST

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