Under attack from the BJP over the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday received a boost after an independent from the sugarcane rich Ahmednagar district Shankarrao Gadakh-Patil, who is the cabinet minister, has joined the saffron party in the presence of CM Uddhav Thackeray.
With this Shiv Sena’s tally in the 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly increased to 57. Shiv Sena now has the support of six independents in the state assembly.
Eyebrows were raised after Thackeray inducted Gadakh-Patil in the council of ministers from Shiv Sena’s quota neglecting his own party veterans. Gadakh-Patil’s decision comes days after Shiv Sena deputy leader and former minister Anil Rathod, who was elected from Ahmednagar to the state assembly in the past, died last week. Gadakh-Patil hopes to fill up the vacuum following Rathod’s untimely death.
Thackeray has assigned Gadakh-Patil with the responsibility of Ahmednagar district and to mobilise more support at the grassroots.
Ahmednagar, which houses more than 25 sugar mills, has been a traditional stronghold of the Congress party and later of the Nationalist Congress party. However, BJP had gained ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections by spreading its wings there.
Thackeray will use Gadakh-Patil’s presence in the cooperative sector to consolidate Shiv Sena’s position in Ahmednagar especially to checkmate the BJP. This will also give Shiv Sena more bargaining power with allies NCP and Congress in the upcoming village panchayat, zilla parishad and other bodies.
A Shiv Sena minister, who did not want to be identified, said Gadakh-Patil’s decision to join the party is also a signal to BJP that Thackeray is prepared to foil BJP’s efforts to destabilise the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. "It is also a signal to the Shiv Sena legislators to remain united and avoid divisive politics in a bid to checkmate BJP,’’ he added.