A day after he quit the Congress, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is set to join the BJP later today, according to sources. Mr Chavan had yesterday told the media that he will take a decision on his next step in a couple of days. Deputy Chief Minister and the state’s top BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, it is learnt, will welcome Mr Chavan into the party at noon. Mr Chava’s aide Amr Rajurkar, who resigned as MLC with him, will also join the BJP today.
Sources have said the former Chief Minister may be offered a Rajya Sabha seat. That would also explain his decision to join the BJP a day after he resigned from the Congress and the Assembly: time for filing nomination for the Rajya Sabha polls is running out.
“I have resigned from the Assembly membership as an MLA. I have given my resignation to the Speaker. I have resigned from the Congress Working Committee and the Congress primary membership. I have not decided to join any party. I will clear my stand on joining a party after two days,” Mr Chavan had told reporters yesterday.
Mr Chavan’s exit is yet another blow to Maharashtra Congress months ahead of state polls and the general election. Earlier, key Congress leader, Milind Deora, quit the party and joined the Eknath Shinde faction of Shiv Sena. Baba Siddique too left and moved to the Ajit Pawar-led NCP.
According to Congress sources, Mr Chavan’s differences with state party chief Nana Patole played a key role in his decision. Speaking to the media yesterday, he had suggested that he was upset over the delay in finalising seat-sharing within the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance with just months left for the polls.
Mumbai Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said that the former Chief Minister was upset over the working style of a Congress leader in Maharashtra. He did not name any leader. “He (Chavan) had approached the top leadership. Had his complaint been taken seriously, this situation would not have happened,” Mr Nirupam said.
Congress leaders have taken swipes at Mr Chavan following his decision. Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh took a “washing machine” jab — washing machine is an oft-repeated reference the Congress uses to accuse the BJP of stalling criminal investigations against Opposition leaders who switch to their side.
“When friends and colleagues leave a political party that has given them much — perhaps much more they deserved — it is always a matter of anguish. But to those who are vulnerable THAT Washing Machine will always prove more attractive than ideological commitment or personal loyalties,” Mr Ramesh said. “These betrayers don’t realise that their exit opens up vast new opportunities to those whose growth they have always stunted,” he added.
Maharashtra Congress chief Patole said it is “unfortunate that leaders who have got everything are leaving the Congress party and ideology”.
The son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Shankarrao Chavan, Ashok Chavan wields significant influence in Nanded region. His exit comes at a time when the Maha Vikas Aghadi — comprising the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena, the Sharad Pawar camp of NCP and the Congress — faces two tall poll challenges.
Ashok Chavan has had an eventful political journey so far. Starting out as a student leader during his college days, he went on to hold key posts in the Congress, including Maharashtra Congress chief and a member of the Congress Working Committee. He has served as an MP from Nanded on two occasions and been a member of both Houses of the state legislature.
After serving as state minister, he was chosen for the Chief Minister post after Vilasrao Deshmukh stepped down in the aftermath of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. The Congress retained him on the top post after the 2009 state polls. The stint was, however, short as Mr Chavan was forced to step down amid corruption allegations related to the Adarsh Housing Society scam.