Several MLAs likely to follow Ashok Chavan after his departure from Maha Cong | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Several MLAs likely to follow Ashok Chavan after his departure from Maharashtra Congress

Feb 13, 2024 05:50 AM IST

The Hindustan Times had on February 3 reported that about 15 Congress MLAs would possibly leave the party ahead of the upcoming elections

MUMBAI: After the defections of Milind Deora and Baba Siddique, the Congress was dealt its biggest blow in the last few years with the exit of senior leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan. Chavan, who resigned from the primary membership of the party on Monday, is likely to join the BJP on February 15. There is conjecture that his resignation is set to trigger large-scale defections from MLAs.

Mumbai, India – Feb 12, 2024: Former Congress leader Ashok Chavan addressing the media outside his residence, at Churchgate, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, Feb 12, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – Feb 12, 2024: Former Congress leader Ashok Chavan addressing the media outside his residence, at Churchgate, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, Feb 12, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

The Hindustan Times had on February 3 reported that about 15 Congress MLAs would possibly leave the party ahead of the upcoming elections.

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Chavan, who was being investigated in the Adarsh scam, is a mass leader who also enjoys the support of most Congress MLAs. He has his own set of loyalists in the party, and it is speculated that they are likely to announce their decision in the days to come. While Amarnath Rajurkar, a former member of the legislative council, resigned from the Congress soon after Chavan’s resignation, the names of around 18 other MLAs are doing the rounds.

Among these are Jitesh Antapurkar, Mohan Hambarde and Madhavrao Pawar from Nanded, Amit Deshmukh and Dhiraj Deshmukh from Latur and Vijay Wadettiwar. Included in the ones who are rumoured to be on their way to the NCP is Baba Siddique’s son, Zeeshan Siddique and Aslam Shaikh. Wadettiwar, Shaikh and Amin Patel have put out denials on social media.

After Chavan’s shocker, the state Congress unit swung into action and called a meeting of all its MLAs on Wednesday. Senior leaders such as Balasaheb Thorat, Prithviraj Chavan and others contacted all the legislators and claimed that all assured them that they were with the party. “Not a single one of them is going anywhere,’ said former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. “The BJP is making tall claims and spreading misinformation.”

Read more: Why Ashok Chavan’s departure will hit Congress’ prospects in Maharashtra

Vishwajeet Kadam, Congress MLA from Palus-Kadegaon, corroborated that untruths were being put out about him. “Let me make it clear that I have not resigned as an MLA and am still working for the Congress party. I will not take any decision without deliberating with the people from my constituency,” said Kadam in a video message on Monday.

Opposition leader in the state assembly and senior Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar, who is considered to be close to Chavan, also denied that he was quitting the party. “Ashok Chavan’s decision is unfortunate and shocking,” he said. “The people are fed up with the BJP breaking other parties. They will teach it a lesson in the coming elections.”

MLAs Aslam Shaikh and Amin Patel took to social media platform X to deny that they were leaving the Congress. “I urge the media to refrain from spreading false news about my shift to any other party. Let’s maintain decorum and avoid creating unnecessary confusion,” said Shaikh. Patel, on his part, said, “There are rumours circulating about my departure from the Congress Party. I want to clarify that these claims are false and baseless. I am firmly committed to the Congress Party.”

Prithviraj Chavan, expressing sorrow over Ashok Chavan’s exit, also slammed the BJP, saying that everyone knew what was behind the recent political defections. “Chavan’s exit could be part of Operation Lotus,” he said. “The BJP does not have the courage to face people in elections and is thus breaking opposition parties to remain in power. But even if leaders are leaving, the people will not go with them.”

Chavan further said that he was not aware why Ashok Chavan had quit the party, as the latter had said nothing. “Only he or the senior leaders in Delhi will be able to say why he was upset,” he said.

Read more: Ashok Chavan, after Milind Deora and Baba Siddique, resigns from Maharashtra Congress

Chavan’s exit also means that the Congress may lose a Rajya Sabha seat to the BJP in case of large-scale defection by its MLAs or cross-voting by the MLAs who are in touch with Chavan. Congress now has 43 MLAs in the assembly, and it needs 41 or 42 to get its candidate elected to the Rajya Sabha.

Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said that several “tall leaders” of other parties wanted to join the BJP. “Many Congress leaders are in touch with us because of the behaviour of their senior leaders,” he claimed. “They are feeling suffocated in their party.” Fadnavis said the names of the leaders who were in contact with the BJP would soon be revealed. “Aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya (Wait and watch what happens next),” he said, hinting at more defections from the Congress and other opposition parties.

State BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule also said that “big leaders” from Latur and Dharashiv (Osmanabad) from central Maharashtra would soon join the BJP.

The speculation about Chavan leaving the Congress has been on since the fall of the MVA government. It became stronger when 12 Congress MLAs failed to turn up for the crucial trust vote in the assembly of the Eknath Shinde-led faction and BJP on July 4, 2022. Not only Chavan, most of his loyalists were among those who showed up late for the floor test.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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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