Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Setback for Congress as son of Opposition leader in Maharashtra likely to join BJP today
Doubts being raised whether Opposition leader in legislature Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil will stay in Congress for the Assembly pollsUpdated: Mar 12, 2019 09:34 IST
In a major embarrassment to the Congress, Sujay, the son of the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday. Sujay had made his intention to contest the Ahmednagar constituency, his home turf, clear nearly two months ago, but the seat was in the quota of ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The NCP refused to swap this seat with the Congress despite requests made to the party chief, Sharad Pawar.
So far, there has been no formal comment from the Vikhe Patils, but the BJP has announced this decision.
With Sujay set to quit Congress, there is speculation in political circles that his father and mother, Shalini Vikhe Patil, also party district president, may quit the party ahead of the Assembly polls.
The decision is said to have been taken even as Congress tried its best to stop Sujay from joining BJP, including making a last-ditch attempt by All India Congress Committee (AICC) Maharashtra in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge and other senior leaders to intercede with NCP on Monday. This was done even as Vikhe Patil met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi late in Delhi.
“Sujay Vikhe Patil will join the BJP on Tuesday around 1pm. So far, formal decision on handing him the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha ticket has not been taken, but that’s a given. Since we have a sitting MP from Ahmednagar, there is bound to be some discomfort over this move, but the Chief Minister and state president will handle this,’’ said a state BJP minister.
Sujay met BJP minister Girish Mahajn, considered to be a close aide of Fadnavis last week.
The internal unease over importing a candidate from Congress was evident at the BJP party meeting in their Dadar office, when MP Dilip Gandhi’s supporters shouted slogans in front of Fadnavis.
NCP chief Pawar made the party’s stance clear earlier in the afternoon at a press conference in Pune. He questioned the need for NCP to sacrifice a seat for Sujay, who had no contribution for the Congress-NCP alliance.
He said, “The Ahmednagar seat has been with the NCP. We have two of the six sitting legislators in this Lok Sabha constituency, while Congress has none. There is a strong likelihood that we can win this seat. I don’t think there will be much of a difference even if Sujay joins BJP.’’
Pawar reminded the Congress that the seat had gone to NCP after the party candidate defeated Sujay’s grandfather Balasaheb Vikhe Patil. It is being said that Pawar’s refusal stems from enmity between him and the Vikhe Patils, but Congress leaders also suggested a way out of the logjam, of Sujay contesting on a NCP ticket, which had also been denied by the latter.
“Congress state president Ashok Chavan had worked out via media to let Sujay contest on a NCP, ticket but he refused to join the party. He said he would either contest as an independent or join the BJP,’’ said a senior Congress leader.
The enmity between Pawar and Balasaheb Vikhe Patil goes back to 1991 polls, when the latter had filed a petition against Yashwantrao Gadakh, Congress MP, and accused Pawar of corrupt electoral practices.
Pawar had faced strictures from the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court in this case, but was later given a clean chit by the Supreme Court.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had made an emotional appeal to Sharad Pawar urging him to end the decade-old feud as his father was no more. “Pawarsaheb’s enmity was with my father. He should leave it behind after the demise of my father,” Radhakrishna had said.
Earlier in the day, Chavan had said that Dr Sujay should wait patiently as party leaders were trying their best for the ticket. He was reacting on the reports of Sujay planning to join BJP.