MUMBAI: In a setback to the NCP ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls, its Mumbai unit chief and former minister Sachin Ahir joined the Shiv Sena on Thursday.
Ahir, who was a minister in the previous Congress-NCP coalition government in the state, joined the Shiv Sena here in the presence of its party president Uddhav Thackeray and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray.
Welcoming Ahir into the party-fold, Uddhav Thackeray, in an apparent jibe at senior ally BJP, said splitting other political parties was not Sena's tendency.
"I want Sena to grow but not at the cost of morals and ethics," he told reporters here, without naming any party. The Shiv Sena wants to do politics by"winning the hearts of people", he said.
"Sachin Ahir has joined us willingly and happily. I assure him that he will not regret his decision," he said.
He said the yatra recently undertaken by his son Aaditya Thackeray and the mass outreach programme to be soon taken up by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were for ensuring the Sena-BJP alliance's win in the Assembly polls, due in September-October.
Ahir, who was associated with the NCP since its formation in 1999, represented Shivdi Assembly seat in Mumbai from 1999 to 2009 and was later elected from Worli, after delimitation of constituencies.
In 2014, he lost the Assembly election to Shiv Sena's Sunil Shinde.
Ahir said he will work for the expansion of Shiv Sena's base, but will not try to break the NCP.
"Sharad Pawar will be in my heart. But I will have Aaditya and Uddhavji's strength in my body to work for the Shiv Sena," he said.
Ahir said he has no grudge against the NCP.
"But some unavoidable political decisions had to be taken considering the prevailing situation," he said.
Ahir said a couple of days back, he met Aaditya Thackeray at a social event where the latter told him that the Shiv Sena needed leaders like him, who were "well-versed in urban politics".
"The Shiv Sena is in power in most of the municipal corporations in the state. I can use my expertise gained as a minister for the development of cities. Hence, I took the decision to work for the development of cities by being in power," he said.
Ahir said the Sena will now take decision on whether he will contest the state Assembly polls.
On the occasion, Aaditya Thackeray said Ahir and he knew each other since long.
"Despite being in different parties we realised that our goal and aim is development of urban areas," he added.
Meanwhile, reacting to Ahir's decision to join the Sena, NCP's chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said those deserting the party lacked courage and strength to fight the Assembly elections on their own.
"His joining the Shiv Sena will have no bearing on our party's poll prospects," Malik added.