The Maharashtra unit of the Congress on Tuesday hurtled into yet another crisis, with senior leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil formally quitting the party, before meeting chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The former leader of opposition in the state assembly, Patil is expected to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay was elected from the Ahmadnagar Lok Sabha constituency on a BJP ticket in the just concluded polls. Vikhe-Patil, too, was all set to join the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections, but had put his plans on hold till the election results were out.
According to several BJP functionaries in Maharashtra, following the drubbing of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine in the general elections, joining the BJP remains a mere formality for Vikhe-Patil.
“I didn’t even campaign for the (Congress) party during the Lok Sabha elections. I don’t doubt high command, they had given me opportunity by making me the leader of opposition. I tried to do good work, but the situation made me resign," news agency ANI quoted Vikhe-Patil as saying.
Another rebel Congress MLA Abdul Sattar, who was expelled from the party in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, had on Monday met senior BJP leaders and state minister Girish Mahajan. Sattar on Tuesday told reporters that 8-10 state Congress legislators were in touch with the BJP.
“The disappointment with the Congress leadership in the state and their way of functioning is the reason behind our decision," Sattar told ANI, after he accompanied Vikhe-Patil in the legislature. The Congress had 42 legislators in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly. With Vikhe-Patil’s resignation the strength was reduced to 41.
A senior BJP functionary in Maharashtra said Congress legislators including Rahul Bondre, Jaykumar Gore and Bharat Bhalke, besides Sattar, were exploring the option of joining the BJP. “They are in talks with our senior leaders and they don’t see a Congress revival in Maharashtra in the assembly polls either. They also have complaints against their current state leadership," said the BJP functionary, requesting anonymity.