Mumbai: With the BJP having taken a centre-stage in fragmented politics of Maharashtra, and upcoming assembly polls likely to be a make-or-break contest for many stake-holders, at least a dozen legislators of the Congress and the NCP and an MP have defected to ruling BJP and Shiv Sena in the last few days.
Assuming that all of them get tickets to contest and emerge victorious, it would decimate the Congress and the NCP further, fulfilling the purpose of the BJP to expand its base.
It is Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which bore the brunt of desertions which, according to some leaders, is an indication of the Maratha strongman losing his grip over the party as well as the state politics.
Before 2014 elections, a government led by the Congress and the NCP had been in power for 15 years in Maharashtra. Prior to that the state had been traditionally ruled by the Congress.
In the last polls, the BJP emerged as the single largest party winning 122 out of the total 288 seats while the Sena, which contested separately, won 63.
On Monday, the Congress and the NCP sealed a seat-sharing deal to contest 125 seats each. Rest 38 seats will be allotted to smaller allies.
Prominent defectors are former minister and Navi Mumbai strongman Ganesh Naik, who was with the NCP for at least two decades, before he joined the BJP recently, and that of Udayanraje Bhosale, a direct descendant of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Bhosale had resigned from his Parliamentary membership from Satara in western Maharashtra before joining the BJP in Delhi in the presence of party chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Other leaders from the NCP who have joined the Shiv Sena are sitting MLAs Pandurang Barora, Shivendraraje Bhosale, Avdhoot Tatkare and his father and former MLC Anil Tatkare, Dilip Sopal and former state unit president Bhaskar Jadhav.
Prominent former NCP MLAs who have joined the Uddhav Thackeray-led pary are Sachin Ahir and Madhukar Pichad, who had served as ministers in the erstwhile Democratic Front (DF) government in the state. Both of them were considered close to Pawar.
Former NCP MPs Dhananjay Mahadik and Sanjeev Naik have joined the BJP.
Those from the NCP fold who have switched their allegiance to the BJP are MLAs Sandeep Naik, Vaibhav Pichad, and Rana Jagjitsinh.
A senior Congress leader said on Tuesday the deserters have switched sides considering local political equations, but they are not being able to dent the party’s organisation at the local level.
From the Congress’ camp, sitting MLAs Nirmala Gavit, Bhausaheb Kambale and Abdul Sattar have joined the Shiv Sena while former minister Harshvardhan Patil, and MLAs Kalidas Kolambkar and Jaykumar Gore have crossed over to the BJP.
All the sitting legislators have tendered their resignations as members of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council.
Former Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh, a north Indian leader who wields clout in some pockets in the city, has also quit the party. Though he has not opened his cards on his future political move, speculation is that he might cross over to the BJP.
Bahujan Vikas Agadhi (BVA) MLA Vilas Tare has joined the Sena.
However, the Congress is putting up a brave face. “Exit of the former and sitting legislators makes no difference to our party. What is important for us is to continue to be organisationally strong,” he said.
Speaking about Harshvardhan Patil, an NCP leader said Pawar was willing to accommodate the Congress leader, who had lost to Datta Bharne of the NCP in 2014 from Indapur constituency, in some other seat.
“However, the NCP can ill afford to replace Bharne who belongs to the Dhangar community which comprises 35 per cent voters in Baramati Lok Sabha seat being represented by Supriya Sule,” he said.
However, the trend of defections is not new to Maharashtra politics.
In early 1990s, Chhagan Bhujbal had quit the Sena with at least a dozen MLAs and joined the Congress. Later, another Sena leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane followed in Bhujbal’s footsteps and switched to the Congress with about a dozen MLAs.
Meanwhile, in an editorial in party mouthpiece “Saamana”, the Sena on Tuesday took a swipe at the NCP chief over his comments that voters will teach a lesson to the defectors lacking in self respect who have resigned from the party.
“Pawar is right. Some years ago, some people from other parties had joined the Congress. People had taught them a lesson. Bhujbal could not win an assembly election from Mumbai and later he lost in Nashik. Even Rane was defeated.
Those who defected with these leaders, except few, have not won an election. Ganesh Naik too was defeated in 2014,” it said.
“Sitting NCP MP Amol Kolhe is also a product of the Shiv Sena,” it added.
Referring to the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 1999, it said Pawar had split the Congress on the ground of self respect.
“But in the last two decades, he has been in an alliance with Sonia Gandhi-led congress,” it said. The edit also said that “opportunity and compromise” have become hallmarks of the contemporary politics in the state.
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