Ashok Chavan, former Maharashtra Chief Minister, joined the BJP today, a day after he quit the Congress. The former MP, who was a prominent face for the Congress in the politically-significant state, was welcomed into the BJP by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and state party chief Chandrashekhar Bawankul.
Mr Chavan, sources said, will be filing nomination papers for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election tomorrow. In fact, it is the nomination deadline that had prompted him to join the BJP just a day after resigning from the Congress’s primary membership, the sources added.
The former Chief Minister had yesterday told the media that he would take a decision on his political future in the next couple of days. However, this morning, he said he would be starting a new political journey with the BJP today.
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”.