As Election Day Draws Closer, Shiv Sena, BJP Tackle Rebel Problem

In Mumbai city, as across the state, the saffron combine is facing deeply unhappy party cadre who are unwilling to compromise with tickets handed to new entrants.

Mumbai: On October 7, the last day to withdraw nominations, several senior BJP leaders including chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were involved in convincing rebels from withdrawing their candidature filed in several constituencies across the state.

While some candidates relented reluctantly, several others stood their ground. In at least 30 constituencies, the saffron combine will be facing rebel candidates, at least three of them are from Mumbai city.

Several old party cadres, miffed with the decision of fielding new candidates (some of whom have recently joined the party) have made their feelings known.

In Mumbai’s Bandra East constituency, the Sena decided to ditch its sitting MLA Trupti Sawant and have instead fielded Mumbai’s mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar. Trupti, wife of late Sena leader Bala Sawant and considered to be close to the Thackeray family has been angered by this decision and thus decided to file her nomination anyway.

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“Several calls were made to her. But Sawant decided to go ahead with her nomination,” said a party leader, privy to the conversations that had unfolded in the aftermath. Bandra East constituency is considered to be a prestige seat for the Sena since the Thackeray’s family house Matoshree is located there. 

A similar situation arose in Sindhudurg, where Sena party man Satish Sawant filed his nomination as an independent candidate against Nitesh Rane, son of former chief minister Narayan Rane. Nitesh is a BJP candidate from the constituency and Sena activists in the region have openly expressed their discontent with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for letting the seat go into BJP’s kitty. 

Sena, which had earlier demanded an equal seat share, had to settle for 124 seats with BJP along with other allies contesting on 164 seats.  

Not just the Konkar region, in Vidarbha too, rebels of several constituencies have openly challenged party decisions. Local karyakartas say BJP leader Sanjay Deshmukh has lobbied for the party seat from Digras constituency in Yavatmal. However, in the last minute the coalition decided to hand the seat over to Sena’s Sanjay Rathod.  Deshmukh is now contesting independent from the constituency. 

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Most of these rebel candidates were approached the senior leaders and were asked to withdraw. Last week, addressing a joint press conference, Fadnavis and Uddhav had announced that strict action would be initiated against rebels who do not agree with party decisions. While most of these candidates have not yet resigned from the party, senior leaders say they will soon be suspended. 

Some candidates have also crossed over to the opposition after they were denied tickets. In Nashik East constituency, Balasaheb Sanap, a sitting BJP MLA, has been nominated by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) after he was ignored by his party. BJP instead went for Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) turncoat, Rahul Dhikle. 

In all, 5,543 nominations were filed for 288 assembly seats. By October 7, 1,504 candidates had withdrawn their applications, leaving 3239 candidates in the fray. Most number of candidates have filed their candidature from Marathwada’s Nanded South (38), then from Aurangabad East (34) and Jalna (32). Chiplun seat in Konkan region has only three candidates, followed by Akole (4), Mahim (4) and Borivli (4). 

While the Sena and BJP has been fighting a peculiar situation, MNS and NCP have gone into a tactical understanding with a decision to not field candidates against each other. This deal, the Hindustan Times has reported, was struck after NCP leader Ajit Pawar and Raj Thackeray spoke to finalise a compromise of sorts.  

In Nashik, MNS decided to withdraw it candidate against the NCP and the NCP decided to return the favour by withdrawing its candidate in Thane city. 

In some constituencies, the two parties have not just withdrawn their candidates but have also openly extended support for each other. In Pune’s Kothrud seat, the NCP decided to not field a candidate and extend its support to the MNS candidate Kishore Shinde, contesting against BJP’s state president and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil.