7 Cong MLAs skip party meet, three of them close aides of Ashok Chavan | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

7 Cong MLAs skip party meet, three of them close aides of Ashok Chavan

Feb 16, 2024 07:18 AM IST

Seven MLAs, including close aides of former chief minister Ashok Chavan, skipped a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) in Mumbai. Speculation suggests some may join the BJP or NCP.

Mumbai: As many as seven MLAs skipped the meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) held on Thursday morning. Among those who were not seen are three MLAs from Nanded, all considered as close aides of former chief minister Ashok Chavan — Jitesh Antapurkar, Mohan Hambarde, and Madhavrao Pawar Jawalgaonkar.

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Chavan has recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was nominated for a Rajya Sabha seat. Zeeshan Siddique, whose father and Congress leader Baba Siddique joined the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, also skipped the meeting. There is speculation that Siddique could join the NCP in the coming days. Party MLA from Amravati, Sulbha Khodke, skipped the meeting. She too is likely to cross over to NCP soon.

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Among others were Amit Deshmukh (Latur City), Sangram Thopte (Bhor) and KC Padvi (Akkalkuwa), who were absent from the CLP meeting.

However, the Congress claimed that the legislators who were absent had sought prior permission from the party. “All the MLAs have informed the party well in advance about prior commitments and issues. They skipped the meeting with state president Nana Patole’s permission,” said Atul Londhe, chief spokesperson, of Maharashtra Congress.

The meeting of the legislative unit of the party was called ahead of party nominee Chandrakant Handore filing his nomination for the Rajya Sabha election. It was also an attempt to show that the party’s MLAs “have not followed Chavan to BJP”.

State Congress president Nana Patole said, “All the Congress MLAs will vote during the Rajya Sabha elections slated for February 27.”

On Tuesday, Chavan, the former chief minister and one of the most prominent leaders of state Congress, quit the party. Several Congress MLAs are in touch with Chavan though he has insisted that he has “not asked any legislators to quit the party”.

The absence of these MLAs assumes significance in light of three high-profile exits — Baba Siddiqui, Chavan, and Milind Deora; the latter is now with Eknath Shinde’s Sena.

The Hindustan Times reported on February 3 that 15 Congress MLAs are likely to leave the party, which now has 43 legislators in the Assembly.

The party has also organised a two-day camp at Lonavala near Pune starting from February 16. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to address the opening session of the camp. With the exit of Chavan, a shocked Congress is in damage control mode.

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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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