The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday dropped its sitting MP Kirit Somaiya, whose name was opposed by ally Shiv Sena, as its candidate from Mumbai North East. The Shiv Sena had been bitterly opposed to Somaiya's candidature. And the BJP's decision to replace him with Manoj Kotak underscores its keenness to keep its Hindutva ally in good humour.
Somaiya, an old BJP hand and one of its leading speakers on economic issues in Parliament, had been a trenchant critic of the Sena.
Somaiya, 65, has been the BJP MP from Mumbai North East for twice. Siv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray refused to forgive Somaiya's attacks, even though they were mainly in response to the Shiv Sena's criticism of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the past few years.Some of the reasons for changing the sitting MP include their shortcomings, his performance in Parliament as well as during the various events organised by the party in the last five years, the BJP leader said.
Somaiya has been facing a stiff opposition from the Shiv Sena for his continued tirade against Thackeray and his family, the BJP functionary said. Sena workers have already opposed the candidature of Somaiya and also warned of voting against him if he is renominated, he said.
"Very happy that Manoj Kotak ji standing with me here has got the ticket. We all will support him and ensure he wins. Ultimately our aim is a second term for Modi ji. Responsibilities within the party keep shifting, nothing new in it," said Somaiya.
Maharashtra accounts for the second highest Lok Sabha seats - 48 - after Uttar Pradesh, which has 80.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the two saffron parties along with their allies had won 42 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. The BJP had bagged 23 seats, while its ally Shiv Sena had emerged victorious in 18 constituencies. The BJP later lost a Lok Sabha seat in a bypoll.Asked about the benefits of joining hands with the Sena, which has been constantly criticising the BJP and its central leadership, the BJP office-bearer said, "Both the parties have their dedicated cadres, which means those voters will always vote for the party nominated candidates."
"The alliance also means both the parties will get each others' votes. We have secured at least 70,000 to 1,20,000 votes in each constituency at present because of this alliance," the official said.
(With PTI inputs)