Mumbai: Four opposition Congress-NCP legislators in Maharashtra resigned from the State Assembly on Tuesday, amid talk of their joining the ruling BJP.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP, which recently saw many regional satraps leave the 20-year-old party, bore the maximum brunt of the latest move as three of the four MLAs belonged to it.
Navi Mumbai NCP leader Ganesh Naik's son Sandeep, Satara MLA Shivendrasinh Bhosale, NCP leader Madhukar Pichad's son Vaibhav Pichad and Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar submitted their resignations separately to Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagade at the Vidhan Bhawan here.
They are likely to join the BJP on Wednesday along with former NCP state women's wing chief Chitra Wagh, who quit the party last week. In June, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, then Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, quit the Congress and was inducted into the BJP and made a cabinet minister.
The NCP received a jolt last week when its Mumbai unit chief Sachin Ahir joined the ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena. Vaibhav Pichad, who represents Akole in Ahmednagar district and whose father Madhukar Pichad was former NCP minister, had stated last week that he was joining the BJP.
Kolambkar, a seven-term lawmaker from Mumbai who represents Wadala seat in the city at present, was originally with the Shiv Sena before joining the Congress.
Reacting to the Tuesday's development, the NCP accused the BJP of "threatening and luring" the lawmakers to make them switch loyalties in the run-up to the Assembly polls which are due in September-October.
Sandeep Naik, who represents Airoli, told PTI that his supporters wanted him to join the BJP "for Navi Mumbai's development". Navi Mumbai is considered a model city and it needs a strong backing like that from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for further development, he said.
"Fadnavis has taken the entire state on the path of development," he said. He denied that opposition MLAs were being threatened and pressurised to quit their parties.
Asked if his father and former state minister Ganesh Naik and brother, Sanjeev Naik, former Thane MP, too will follow the suit and join the BJP, Sandeep Naik said he would not speak on their behalf.
The Naik family holds considerable clout in Navi Mumbai, a satellite city of Mumbai. "My father gave me the freedom to take the decision on my own," Sandeep added. He said he would speak to each of the 52 Navi Mumbai corporators who support his family to find out if they too wished to join the BJP.
Bhosale, who belongs to the royal house of Chhatrapati Shivaji and whose cousin Udayanraje is NCP MP from Satara, said, "I am more interested in protecting the interest of my assembly constituency."
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that opposition MLAs are "either being lured or threatened to make them join the ruling party." NCP general secretary Jitendra Awhad said the Naik family wanted to leave the party in 2014 itself, when the party lost power in Maharashtra.
Ganesh Naik was "systematically wiping out" the NCP from the Thane-Navi Mumbai region, he alleged. "Unfortunately, my party did not listen to me when I spoke up about this then. Ganesh Naik encouraged dynastic rule. But we will expand the base of our party now and begin the work from Navi Mumbai itself," Awhad added.
Apart from Mumbai NCP chief and former Maharashtra minister Ahir, the party's Shahapur MLA Pandurang Barora joined the Shiv Sena recently. Jaydutt Kshirsagar, NCP leader and former Maharashtra Minister, had joined the Shiv Sena in May.