A day before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flags of the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ pre poll statewide Mahajanadesh Yatra, four Opposition legislators and other senior leaders joined the party.
Three Nationalist Congress Party MLAs – Sandeep Naik, Vaibhav Pichad, Shivendra Bhosale – and one Congress MLA – Kalidas Kolambkar – who had resigned as MLAs a day before, were inducted in the BJP at a function held in Mumbai.
Besides the legislators, NCP’s senior tribal leader and a close aide of party chief Sharad Pawar, Madhukar Pichad (father of Vaibhav Pichad) and NCP’s former women wing chief Chitra Wagh also joined the ruling party. Former IPS officer and Pune’s police commissioner, Sahebrao Patil was also inducted in the BJP at this function.
The induction of these senior leaders was timed ahead of the Chief Minister Fadnavis’ 24-day tour to sound off the election bugle by the BJP.
Over the last two months, NCP has lost five legislators, its Mumbai chief and women’s wing chief to the BJP.
Senior party leaders said that such crossover of opposition legislators would continue until the eve of the polls. A senior BJP minister indicated that another 10 MLAs could get inducted though many more were in talks with the party.
“We are glad that a senior leader of the caliber of Madhukar Pichad, a six-term legislator such as Kolambkar, a descendent of Maratha king Shivaji, Shivendra Raje Bhosale and youth leader such as Sanjiv Naik, whose family has clout across Navi Mumbai and an aggressive woman’s leader like Chitra Wagh, have joined ranks with the BJP,’’ said Fadnavis.
“BJP is not a dharmashala, no one can get up and walk in to our party. We are weighing in the work of the leaders, their calibre, grassroots connect before they are inducted,” the Chief Minister added.
The chief minister also indicated that Naik’s father and senior NCP leader Ganesh Naik was likely to follow his son’s footsteps even though he was absent on the dais at the function on Wednesday.
Fadnavis on a lighter note said, “We are smart…we always get the sons first. So, we inducted Sujay Vikhe Patil and then his father Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil (former Congress and now BJP minister) followed. Similarly, we got Vaibhav Pichad first and his father is here with us today. So, we know that Ganesh Naik’s blessings will be with his son. And, with the Naiks backing BJP, not just Navi Mumbai, even Thane district is now entirely with our party.’’