Mumbai: Given the current rate of attrition in the opposition rank and file, with defectors hopping onto the BJP and the Shiv Sena with a monotonous regularity, it appears that Maharashtra will soon be practically ‘opposition-mukt.’
Thus far the NCP had received the blows and the Congress was saved the blushes. But on Tuesday, the Congress got three jolts, with former minister Harshavardhan Patil inching towards the BJP and the former minister Kripashankar Singh and Urmila Matondkar, who unsuccessfully contested from Mumbai North in the Lok Sabha election, resigning from the party.
Prithviraj Chavan’s right-hand man Anand Rao Patil, too, is eyeing the BJP. Not that the Nationalist Congress Party remained unscathed. NCP’s strongman in Navi Mumbai, Ganesh Naik, is heading for the BJP while the former state president of the NCP, Bhaskar Jadhav, has already announced that he is joining the Shiv Sena.
More than 20 leaders from the opposition have so far embraced the BJP or the Sena in the last few months. During his mass outreach programme, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had claimed that the opposition parties would be diminished to such an extent that that they would be hard pressed to secure the post of the leader of opposition. His claim is likely to fructify as all the senior leaders perceived to possess the ‘winnable’ factor are joining the ruling bandwagon.
So, the question being asked is: Who will then be left in the Opposition? BJP national president Amit Shah had tried to answer this question when he claimed recently that only Prithviraj Chavan (Congress) and Ajit Pawar (NCP) will remain in the opposition.
Former Maharashtra minister Kripashankar Singh quit the Congress saying he did not agree with party's stand to oppose the abrogation of Article 370. The former Mumbai Congress president said he would reveal his political stand at an "appropriate time" and added he was not joining the BJP.
"I quit the Congress because I do not agree with the party's stand to oppose the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Singh served as the Mumbai Congress chief and was also a minister in the Congress-NCP coalition government for 15 years. A Mumbai court last year discharged Singh in a disproportionate assets case, for want of sanction to prosecute him. He had come under the Enforcement Directorate and CBI scanners in the case.
Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar said she had resigned from the Congress, which she had joined in March, owing to 'petty in-house politics.'
"My political and social sensibilities refuse to allow vested interests in the party to use me as a mean to fight petty in-house politics instead of working on a bigger goal in Mumbai Congress," she said.
After the 2019 Lok Sabha election, she wrote a letter to the then Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora, complaining that three local leaders, Bhushan Patil, Ashok Sutrale and Sandesh Kondwilkar, had not worked honestly during the election.
This letter was reportedly leaked by Deora to settle scores with the former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, as these three leaders are very close to him. This infuriated Urmila because she had been expecting action against them.
However, since no disciplinary measures were taken against them, she decided to resign. Senior Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil, also a former state minister, may join the BJP on Wednesday in the presence of CM Devendra Fadnavis and state unit president Chandrakant Patil.
He is leaving the Congress as the NCP is not ready to spare him a seat. He was defeated by NCP leader Datta Bharne in the 2014 assembly election. Patil is from the Indapur assembly constituency and at a public rally last week, he had attacked the NCP.
Patil held many key posts in the state ministry when the Congress-NCP was in power. However, since his loss in the 2014 assembly elections, he has been sidelined in the party.
Naik to join BJP with 50 corporators in tow
NCP leader and former minister Ganesh Naik will join the BJP on Wednesday in the presence of CM Fadnavis. He will move in a drove along with 50 corporators of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation.
A former cabinet minister in the Maharashtra government, it was speculated Naik would jump ship ever since his son, Sandeep, joined the BJP in July.