The Congress is imploding in Maharashtra with three leaders, including Kripashankar Singh and Harshvardhan Patil, having quit. Mr Patil is expected to join the BJP today, with Ganesh Naik from the NCP, and Mr Singh is likely to join at a later date. The third leader to have resigned is actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar, who joined in March in the presence of Rahul Gandhi.
On Tuesday, faced with questions over the resignations, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan would only say, “You need to ask these people what their problem this and why they quit?”
He had earlier told NDTV the BJP was using a “carrot-and-stick policy to poach MLAs” and blamed the party for the “cold-blooded murder of democracy”.
According to sources Kripashankar Singh had was eyeing the Mumbai Congress President’s post left vacant by the resignation of Milind Deora. However, the party opted to appoint Eknath Gaikwad as Acting President.
Mr Singh, who previously served as Mumbai Congress chief, attributed his decision to quit to the party’s stand on Article 370. “I was hurt. On August 5, when it came to the removal of Article 370, I was watching the entire procedure on TV. I felt the government had taken a good decision and we should stand with it, but the Congress opposed it,” he told NDTV.
Meanwhile, Mr Patil, who was a cabinet minister in the previous government, criticised the NCP for not surrendering the Indapur seat ahead of Assembly polls expected next month.
“During Lok Sabha elections, it was decided in the presence of Rahul Gandhi that in Assembly polls, the NCP will cede the seat to the Congress. But, now they are not ready… there is an overall feeling of injustice,” Mr Patil said last week.
Maharashtra MP and Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule said that Mr Patil leaving the party was unfortunate. “Our families have had close relations since decades. I felt very bad after listening to his speech. It is like leaving husband over a fight with brother-in-law,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
He added the BJP had offered him a ticket for the Lok Sabha polls and, according to a report by news agency PTI, when he asked supporters about their thoughts on the matter, they began chanting, “BJP, BJP, Modi, Modi”.
Meanwhile, Urmila Matondkar’s resignation on Tuesday, which she blamed on “petty in-house politics”, prompted another round of sparring in the Congress, with Milind Deora criticising Mumbai North leaders.
The NCP has also seen a slew of defections, with Ganesh Naik, the party’s strongman from Navi Mumbai the latest. His joining the BJP comes after his son, Sandeep Naik, crossed over.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has dismissed the desertions, claiming he had faced bigger challenges in his political career.
Ahead of state polls these defections are a worry for a Congress-NCP combine that won only 83 of 288 seats in 2014 polls. However, many foresee potential issue with the sheer number of leaders joining the BJP.
“We don’t have place for everyone. We have put up a house-full board,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said earlier, adding, “The BJP and Shiv Sena alliance will face issues with seat-sharing because in some places we have all MLAs and in some places they have all seats. If we have to fight in an alliance we’ll get some and we won’t get some. We are not worried about it.”
With input from PTI
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