Two independent legislators Bharat Bhalke and Shirish Kotwal joined Congress on Tuesday and will contest the upcoming assembly elections on the party symbol.
Bhalke, an MLA from Mangalvedha constituency in Solapur, and Kotwal, an MLA from Chandwad constituency in Nashik, are both NCP rebels and latest in the batch of independent legislators to join the Congress.
Chandrakant Tripathy, a former Congress minister and an NCP rebel, also joined the party at the induction programme held in the party’s Dadar office, in the presence of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and state president Manikrao Thakre.
Faced with tough polls, the Congress has been shoring up support of independent legislators. There are 24 independent legislators, mostly supporting the ruling allies in the state.
The four independent legislators, who joined Congress last week, included Jaykumar Gore (Satara), Shirish Chaudhari (Jalgaon), Suresh Jetheliya (Jalna) and Vasant Chavan (Nanded).
The NCP has also inducted nearly 10 sitting independent legislators. However, these inductions will come at a cost, as both parties are getting former candidates of their allies.
The NCP has already demanded that Congress leave the 10 seats where it has inducted the independent legislators. Congress may find this difficult given that they have finalised their own candidates in these seats.
“The ruling allies will have to swap quite a few of their seats to accommodate the independent legislators. This could prove to be a hurdle in the seat-sharing talks,” said a senior party leader.