In another setback to the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra ahead of the assembly polls, Sachin Ahir, president of the NCP’s Mumbai unit, joined the Shiv Sena on Thursday. The former legislator from Worli said he was joining the Shiv Sena to realise the “dream of a prosperous and developed Maharashtra".
Ahir, considered the face of the NCP in Mumbai where the party had never really made serious inroads, also said he was “sad" about leaving Sharad Pawar, but added that he had told the NCP chief about his decision a few days back. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya welcomed Ahir into the party.
“I have joined the Shiv Sena for development of Maharashtra. I would make efforts to grow the party, but not by breaking the NCP," Ahir told reporters.
Maharashtra assembly polls are likely to be held in October. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have formed a pre-poll alliance, the Congress-NCP combine will take on the ruling alliance. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won 41 out of the 48 seats, while the Congress and NCP won one and four, respectively.
Ever since 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre and in Maharashtra along with the Shiv Sena, there has been a constant inflow of leaders from the Congress and the NCP into the saffron parties. While the BJP has won a major share of this exodus, the Shiv Sena, too, has claimed some big leaders over the past five years.
Only last month, senior Congress leader and former leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former NCP minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar joined the BJP and Shiv Sena, respectively. Both Patil and Kshirsagar were inducted into the state cabinet. Just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, several prominent Congress-NCP faces, including Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar and Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil joined the BJP. Both Sujay Vikhe-Patil and Nimbalkar also got elected as MPs on the BJP ticket from Ahmednagar and Madha, respectively.