Sangli (Maharashtra): In a jolt to the Maharashtra Congress ahead of crucial civic and Zilla Parishad polls, Hingoli district party chief Shivaji Mane Saturday joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Mane is a former two-time Lok Sabha member from Hingoli when he was with the Shiv Sena. He switched over to the Congress a few years ago.

Mane represented the Shiv Sena in parliament in 1996 and 1999, and was appointed chief of Hingoli district Congress, in eastern Maharashtra, five years ago.

Joining the NCP Saturday morning in the presence of NCP state president Madhukarrao Pichad and state Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Mane lashed out at senior Congress leader Rajiv Satam for “sidelining dedicated party workers and humiliating them in public and private”.

“I had brought this to the notice of all the Congress party top brass in Maharashtra and New Delhi. However, the problem with the Congress is, nobody is clear who the immediate boss is and who we turn to for resolving our grievances or problems,” Mane said.

He claimed that during the 2009 Maharashtra assembly elections,  former chief minister Ashok Chavan had sought his cooperation to ensure victory for the party’s candidates.

“We believed that after the assurances by Ashok Chavan, we would be treated with dignity and fairness, but we were humiliated, some leaders indulged in groupism and isolated genuine workers,” Mane pointed out.

Pichad announced Friday that an MP and a prominent party president would join the NCP, though Pawar later clarified that the newcomer was a former member of parliament.

However, in an anti-climax Saturday, Mane turned out to be a former MP and a district Congress president.

Pichad and Pawar’s assertions, nevertheless, succeeded in ringing alarm bells in all the major parties given the spate of crossings  over by fence-sitters in the past few weeks, in the run-up to the forthcoming elections to Zilla Parishads (Feb 7) and municipal corporations (Feb 16) across the state.

Political circles are abuzz that the NCP has succeeded in convincing at least four more legislators or parliamentarians to support it and officially join it at an opportune moment.

Elections to 27 Zilla Parishads, 309 Panchayat Samitis and 10 municipal corporations are being held in the state next month.

Elections for municipal corporations, chiefly the country’s premier Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in Mumbai, have evoked much interest.

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