File photo of MNS chief Raj Thackeray
After being decimated in the Assembly elections held in October last year, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is now facing an existential crisis with several former MLAs from the party deserting it.
Vasant Gite from Nasik, Pravin Darekar from Magathane and Ramesh Patil from Kalyan and Kashinath Mengar, who till recently were known as MNS faces, are joining the BJP which won over 120 seats and emerged as the single largest party in the state. The MNS managed to win just one seat, faring worse than the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) which contested for the first time and won two seats.
Maharashtra BJP President Raosaheb Danve told reporters, "We have not promised these leaders anything. Inspired by the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these leaders have joined the BJP and will work to strengthen the party in the state."
Interestingly, senior BJP leaders had attacked Pravin Darekar alleging corruption in a cooperative bank of which Mr Darekar was the chairman. Mr Darekar now says the BJP is convinced that he is innocent. When asked about this, Mr Danve told reporters, "If anyone is proved guilty of corruption, the BJP will not hesitate to take action."
Not just the former MLAs, along with them, several district presidents including party general secretary, Akhilesh Chaubey are also joining the saffron party. Mr Chaubey, till recently, was often seen on television debates defending the MNS and its policies.