Palghar (Maharashtra): Amidst a massive show of strength, Shiv Sena candidate Srinivas C. Vanga on Tuesday filed his nomination for the by-election to the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, virtually hijacking the seat from its fuming ally Bharatiya Janata Party.
The May 28 bypoll was necessitated after the sudden demise of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Vanga on January 30, who was the party's face and strongman in the predominantly tribal district bordering Gujarat.
This afternoon, Srinivas Vanga, accompanied by several Shiv Sena ministers and other leaders, arrived in an open truck procession with a sea of saffron flags and turbans in front and behind, thousands carrying posters and banners of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, to file his candidature.
The development came five days after the Vanga family met Thackeray in Mumbai and decided to join the Shiv Sena after accusing the BJP of "ignoring" them after Chintaman Vanga's death.
A rattled BJP leadership attempted to mollify the Vangas with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday publicly appealing to them to reconsider their decision.
Denying the family's allegations, he also declared that the BJP had virtually finalised giving a party ticket to a member of the Vanga family, but his pleas were ignored.
Over the next couple of days, several BJP state ministers, legislators and party leaders rushed to Palghar to convince the Vanga family to return to the party fold, but by Monday evening, the Shiv Sena finally cleared Srinivas Vanga's name as its candidate for the bypoll.
This is the first time that the Shiv Sena has practically "snatched" a seat from its ally BJP's quota even as the two parties are in alliance, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
However, in the past the BJP-Shiv Sena contested the 2014 Lok Sabha together, but fought the 2014 assembly separately after a poll-eve collapse of the alliance.
The severed alliance was resumed a couple of months after the Fadnavis-led BJP minority government took oath then (2014) and Shiv Sena walked over from the Opposition benches to become a ruling coalition partner.
While the BJP has not yet officially declared its nominee for Palghar, a new dimension was added when local strong force Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) on Tuesday announced it will contest the seat, as also the Congress.
Launching a veiled attack on Shiv Sena, the BVA said that in Palghar, only three parties are natural contestants for the seat - the BVA, BJP and Congress, "and the people will not tolerate any outsider (Shiv Sena) in the election, though the late Chintaman Vanga had earned great respect for his work and clean image here".