File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Bickering allies the BJP and the Shiv Sena are heading for an electoral showdown in Maharashtra's Palghar Lok Sabha constituency where bypoll will be held on May 28.
The BJP won the Palghar (ST) constituency, adjoining Mumbai, in 2014, but the death of its sitting MP Chintaman Wanga earlier this year necessitated the by-election.
The Shiv Sena has fielded Chintaman Wanga's son Shrinivas Wanga from the seat, while the BJP has nominated former Congress leader Rajendra Gavit, minutes after he joined the saffron party.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis slammed the Shiv Sena for fielding Shrinivas Wanga against the BJP.
In a setback to the BJP, Shrinivas Wanga and other members of his family joined the Uddhav Thackeray-led party last week.
Shrinivas Wanga today submitted his nomination papers to election officials. He was accompanied by senior Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde.
On the other hand, Gavit, a former Congress MLA and minister, today joined the BJP in the presence of Fadnavis and the party's state president Raosaheb Danve.
Later, Fadnavis and Danve announced the nomination of Gavit, a tribal leader, as the BJP candidate from Palghar.
Besides Palghar, another Lok Sabha constituency in the state, Bhandara-Gondia, will witness bypoll on May 28. The bypoll has been necessitated following the resignation of sitting BJP MP Nana Patole.
Patole quit the BJP and also his Lok Sabha seat after accusing the NDA government of following "anti-farmer" policies.
On Gavit's joining the BJP, Fadnavis said, "We were in touch with Rajendra Gavit for a long time, but he could not join the BJP before the October 2014 assembly elections."
Speaking to reporters, he expressed disappointment over the Shiv Sena fielding Shrinivas Wanga from the seat.
"The Shiv Sena should not have done this. Late Chintaman Wanga strengthened the BJP in Palghar and now his son is contesting on a Shiv Sena ticket. If the BJP loses this election, late Wanga will not forgive us," the chief minister said.
"Palghar is the BJP's seat and late Chintaman Wanga had worked hard for the party's growth in Palghar. It will be a true tribute to Wanga if the BJP wins the bypoll," he said.
"I had personally communicated to the Shiv Sena on who is going to be our candidate. Still, the Sena went ahead and made Shrinivas Wanga join the party and then fielded him against the BJP," Fadnavis said.
The BJP has not yet decided its candidate for the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat, the chief minister said.
Commenting on the further strain in the BJP-Sena ties over the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, Fadnavis said, "What they did is very unfortunate. We did not field any candidate against the Shiv Sena in the recently held by-election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)."
Danve, too, criticised the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
"The Shiv Sena should not forget that in Bandra Assembly bypoll (in 2015), the BJP had supported the Sena. We wanted to give ticket to someone from the Wanga family for the Palghar bypoll.
"Not a single BJP worker has gone with the Wanga family (and joined the Sena). They are still with us and I am sure our candidate will win the Palghar seat," Danve said.
Chintaman Wanga was a popular figure and Shiv Sena leaders had earlier said that their party would support the BJP, if it fields someone from his family.
Fadnavis had also admitted a few days ago that some BJP leaders were in favour of fielding a member of the Wanga family from Palghar.
"It looks like the BJP was not very keen on fielding someone from the Wanga family and hence, they approached us," a Shiv Sena leader said.
Earlier, the Palghar by-election was seen as a cakewalk for the BJP, assuming the party will give ticket to someone from the Wanga family.
However, the contest got a new twist with Shrinivas Wanga entering the poll fray as the Shiv Sena's candidate.
Speaking separately, Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said party chief Uddhav Thackeray decided to nominate Shrinivas Wanga for the bypoll.
"When they (Chintaman Wanga's family) joined the Shiv Sena, they did so not only as a mark of support to our Hindutva agenda but also to the development plank on which the Sena is fighting elections," she told.
On the late BJP leader's kin joining the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said the family had some "misunderstanding".
Reacting to it, Kayande said if the BJP was keen on nominating a member of the Wanga family, it could have done so long back.
"The chief minister's talk about misunderstanding sounds hollow," she said.
The Shiv Sena is part of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and also in Maharashtra. However, it often criticises their programmes and policies.
Earlier this year, Thackeray had announced that his party will contest all future polls on its own.
As per a poll pact between the Congress and the NCP, the former will contest the Palghar seat while the latter will field its candidate in Bhandara-Gondia.
However, the parties are yet to announce their respective candidates.