Six out of seven corporators of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) today joined the Shiv Sena, giving the party, which rules the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, an edge over the BJP.
With this, Shiv Sena's strength in the BMC, the country's richest municipal body, has increased to 90, eight more than that of BJP, a senior Sena leader said. Of late, relations between the Sena and BJP, which are in alliance at the Centre and in Maharashtra, have been strained.
MNS corporators Dilip Lande, Archana Bhalerao, Snehal More, Datta Narvankar, Parashuram Kadam and Ashwini Matekar joined the Shiv Sena in presence of its chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Addressing the media after inducting the corporators in the party, Uddhav Thackeray, in an apparent reference to the fact that the MNS is an offshoot of Shiv Sena, said nobody should accuse the Sena of "poaching" as this was homecoming.
"Poaching took place in Arunachal Pradesh and Goa. Today, it was only 'Ghar Wapsi'," he said, adding there was no ulterior motive behind the move.
"They (BJP) must have realised our strength now after seeing what can we do in one day," Uddhav Thackeray said.
Dilip Lande, one of the six corporator, said the main reason behind joining the Sena was "the BJP's plan to oust the Marathi mayor from his post".
"We joined the Sena for the welfare of the Marathi people," he said.
Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab said he has written a letter to the Konkan division commissioner, informing him about the induction of six MNS corporators in the party.
MNS spokesperson Avinash Abhyankar said if these corporators had defected to the Sena, then "appropriate action will be initiated against them".
After winning a by-election in suburban Bhandup yesterday, BJP's tally in the 227-member BMC house rose to 82.
Another by-election, necessitated by the death of BJP corporator Shailaja Girkar from Kandivali, is yet to be held.
The Shiv Sena also has the support of four Independent corporators, while the BJP has the support of two Independents.
Manoj Kotak, group leader of the BJP in the BMC, termed the induction of MNS corporators in the Shiv Sena as "betrayal of voters".
He said, "This is not just horse-trading, but a betrayal of promise made to the Mumbaikars. We have demanded that Konkan commissioner, police commissioner and the Anti-Corruption Bureau investigate the matter and initiate action against the the mastermind of this episode."