Mumbai, Jan 27 : In a major jolt ahead of the upcoming elections, the ruling Congress was practically wiped out in the Malegaon Municipal Corporation with all 28 corporators including the Mayor 'defecting' to the Nationalist Congress Party here on Thursday.
Malegaon is a Muslim-dominated town, the hub of powerloom textiles in Nashik district while the NCP-Congress are part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi along with Shiv Sena currently ruling the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, NCP State President and Minister Jayant Patil, Ministers Nawab Malik and Chhagan Bhujbal, welcomed the new flock from the Congress to the party fold in Mumbai on Thursday afternoon.
Malegaon Mayor Tahera Shaikh, her husband and corporator Shaikh Asif, a former MLA, and 26 others entered the NCP, pushing the two parties towards a possible political conflict.
Last year, Shaikh Asif had quit as the Malegaon Congress President, triggering widespread speculation, but things settled down.
Taken aback by the sudden development, the Congress reacted angrily, but warned that people from NCP would soon defect to the grand old party.
"Some persons from Congress have joined the NCP. Similarly, a few people from NCP will also be joining us, but I am not revealing details now. We may be in alliance in MVA, but this is after all politics," Congress State President Nana Patole said.
The political arithmetic in the 84-seat MMC has drastically changed with the fresh development, barely weeks ahead of the looming civic elections, along with other important civic bodies in the state.
The current tally is Congress 28, NCP 20, Shiv Sena 12, BJP 9, AIMIM 7 and JD(S) 7, but now the NCP has shot upto 48 and the Congress reduced to zero.
At the small induction ceremony, Ajit Pawar urged all the newcomers to work for the people without creating ill-will or tarnishing the NCP's image.
"From today, you are the soldiers of NCP - Work hard and don't behave in any manner that can discredit or malign the image of the NCP," Pawar said.
He lauded Shaikh Asif, with whom he is acquainted since the past 25 years, for his dedicated work in Malegaon, particularly among the powerloom workers and the local industrial sector.