Sena’s Bha­gat, Chougule top con­tenders for Oppn leader

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NAVI MUMBAI - G Mo­hi­ud­din Jeddy ht­for­nav­i­mum­[email protected]­dus­tan­

CBD BELAPUR: The Shiv Sena has suf­fered a set­back af­ter los­ing the Navi Mumbai Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (NMMC) elec­tions, but its elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are still in the race for lu­cra­tive posts, the chief be­ing that of the Op­po­si­tion leader.

With sev­eral top lo­cal lead­ers in the party – most of whom have re­cently joined the party – the stage is set for an in­ter­est­ing battle within the party.

The race is chiefly be­tween for­mer Shiv Sena Navi Mumbai chief Vi­jay Chougule and for­mer Cidco direc­tor Namdeo Bha­gat, who quit the Congress and joined the Sena.

Both f or mer NCP l e aders Shivram Patil of Kopar Khairane and MK Mad­hvi of Airoli, who quit the party to join the Sena be­fore the elec­tions, are also in the fray.

“There are sev­eral se­nior lead­ers in the race. I will ac­cept the party’s de­ci­sion. The party lead­er­ship knows who is ca­pa­ble of what and will take a de­ci­sion ac­cord­ingly,” said Bha­gat.

Chougule, who had to step down from his post of city party chief fol­low­ing his al­leged in­volve­ment in a rape case, had been side­lined in the party.

He has, how­ever, staked his claim by en­sur­ing the party did ex­tremely well in Airoli, from where he, his son and sev­eral of his as­so­ciates won in the civic elec­tion.

“I have been work­ing in the in­ter­est of the party. I have nei­ther de­manded any post, nor have I been as­sured of any. Our party com­mit­tee com­pris­ing Ek­nath Shinde, Ra­jan Vichare and Vi­jay Na­hata will take a call on it,” said Chougule.

A party source, how­ever, said, “There is hec­tic lob­by­ing by some lead­ers to get the im­por­tant post. Chougule and Bha­gat are run­ning close.”

“Chougule has shown his clout through his per­for­mance, but is play­ing low. Bha­gat is also a strong con­tender be­cause of the posts of Cidco direc­tor and Congress pres­i­dent he has held in the past,” added the source.

The top Sena lead­ers have re­fused to com­ment on the is­sue.

In the re­cently con­cluded civic elec­tions, the NCP won 52 seats in the 111-mem­ber house.

Fall­ing short of a ma­jor­ity, the party claimed it had the five In­de­pen­dent on their side. On Mon­day, the NCP and the Congress, which has won 10 seats, de­cided to have an al­liance — the first in Navi Mumbai Mun­ci­pal Cor­po­ra­tion.

The NCP had till now al­ways won the Navi Mumbai civic elec­tions on its own.

The NCP has of­fered the Congress the post of deputy mayor for two terms and com­mit­tee chair­man­ship for each of eight cor­po­ra­tors.

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