A police officer said to have over a hundred encounter killings under his belt joined the Shiv Sena ahead of the assembly elections in Maharashtra on Friday evening.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray welcomed former Senior Inspector Pradeep Sharma into the fold by tying the "Shiv Bandhan" -- a ceremonial thread indicating one's loyalty to the party -- on his wrist and handing him a saffron flag. "His gun used to speak until recently, but now his mind is doing that," he said, referring to Mr Sharma's reputation as an "encounter specialist".
Addressing party workers at the event, Mr Sharma said that he had always been inspired by late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. "I am getting a good platform to do good work," he said amid shouts of "Jai Shivaji" and "Har Har Mahadev".
According to news agency PTI, he may contest from Nallasopara in Palghar on a party ticket in the upcoming elections.
Mr Sharma was heading the anti-extortion cell of the Thane police when he applied for voluntary retirement after 35 years of service in July. It was formally accepted by the Maharashtra government on September 9.
The former police officer was removed from service by the state government in 2008 over his alleged involvement in a fake encounter case. He was reinstated in 2017, four years after being acquitted by a sessions court.
Mr Sharma was originally supposed to retire from service in May 2020.
After a rousing joint performance in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Shiv Sena and the BJP have decided to extend the collaboration to the upcoming Maharashtra assembly polls. At present, BJP has 124 of the 288 seats in the assembly while the Shiv Sena has 61.
Incidentally, former Nationalist Congress Party state president Bhaskar Jadhav also joined the Shiv Sena in the presence of Uddhav Thackeray after resigning as an MLA on Friday.
(With inputs from PTI)