2019 Lok Sabha elections: Unhappy Maharashtra Opposition leader may follow in his son’s footsteps
Sujay Vikhe Patil’s defection to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday is seen as a major setback for the Congress and more so his father and leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
Stung by the double whammy of his son’s move and that the party did not pressurise NCP into giving up the Ahmednagar seat for his son, an unhappy Vikhe Patil is reportedly weighing his options. With the option of BJP open for him, he will decide on it sooner or later, said his close aides.
As he faces flak for his failure to prevent his son from joining the BJP, sources said Vikhe Patil may step down from the post of leader of Opposition on ethical grounds. He is also disappointed that the state unit leaders did not try hard to get the NCP to give up Ahmednagar seat from its quota, because of which his son had to shift his loyalty.
However, Vikhe Patil said he has not resigned and is ready to perform whatever responsibilities his party entrusts him with.
During his meeting with party president Rahul Gandhi on Monday, he had expressed his resentment and indicated that he would step down. “He feels that state unit chief Ashok Chavan and other leaders did not push for the Ahmednagar seat during their talks with the NCP. Chavan had got Hingoli seat exchanged with the NCP for Rajiv Satav in 2014. Senior Vikhe Patil feels that it was possible for the state leadership to get the seat exchanged, had the effort been sincere,” said a leader close to Vikhe Patil.
On the other hand, party leaders said it was the decades-old rivalry between Vikhe Patils and Sharad Pawar that played spoilsport. “Even Gandhi intervened in the matter and spoke to NCP leaders on Monday,” a leader said.
A section of party leaders in Maharashtra is also pointing at Vikhe Patil’s hobnobbing for the past four-and-a-half years. As leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, he hardly raised his voice against CM Devendra Fadnavis and was considered to be soft in his attack on the government, some leaders said. They also claim that Vikhe Patil was in the know and gave his silent approval to meetings between Sujay and BJP leaders.
“It is unfortunate that the son of one of our top leaders has joined the ruling party. I am sure that Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil will not leave the party. We are surprised over the NCP’s stance as their leaders had earlier admitted to conceding the seat during our joint meetings. The decision about stepping down from the post has to be taken by himself,” said former state unit chief and senior party leader Manikrao Thakre.
The BJP and Sena has eight sitting MLAs (of a total 12) in Ahmednagar district and winning both Lok Sabha seats (Shirdi and Ahmednagar) has believably become easier after Sujay joined the alliance. Radhakrishna and his father, the late Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, had joined the BJP-Shiv Sena government, defecting from the Congress, in the late 1990s. History may get repeated, according to party insiders.
Meanwhile, Chavan has criticised the BJP for poaching leaders from other parties by resorting to ‘unethical means.’
Also, the Congress may agree to exchange the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat with the NCP to accommodate Narayan Rane-led party’s candidate. Rane’s son Nilesh is contesting the seat on their party Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha’s symbol and has sought support from NCP. The seat is with the Congress as part of the seat-sharing formula, but according to new developments, it may agree to exchange it with the NCP. Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Naigaon Kalidas Kolambkar is reportedly on the verge of shifting loyalty to the BJP. He is likely to join the BJP ahead of the Assembly elections to be held later this year.