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Defections haunt Congress in Maharashtra, party may lose opposition leader post in Assembly

About 4-5 Congress MLAs in Maharashtra are likely to join the BJP next month. This will bring down the Congress tally of 42 in a 288-member House.

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Mumbai: After facing a rout in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress in Maharashtra may get yet another jolt as some of its MLAs are likely to cross over to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) next month.

This will not only reduce the Congress’ strength in the Maharashtra Assembly, but the party may also stand to lose the post of the opposition leader in the House to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) less than six months before the state elections.

Abdul Sattar, an MLA from Sillod in Aurangabad district, told ThePrint, “About 4-5 Congress MLAs had a meeting with Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil in Loni in Ahmednagar district day before yesterday (25 May). Vikhe Patil will speak to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP state president Raosaheb Danve, and finalise our induction into the BJP.”

Congress’ Vikhe Patil had resigned as the opposition leader after his son, Sujay Vikhe Patil, defected to the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, dealing a major blow to the opposition. Vikhe Patil had also campaigned for the BJP in the Ahmednagar constituency from where his son contested the election against an NCP candidate.

While Vikhe Patil has neither been expelled from the Congress nor has he quit, Sattar said he was leading the faction of the disgruntled legislators.

Sattar, who was expelled from the Congress last month for campaigning for an independent candidate, said: “We may enter the BJP sometime between 1 June and 6 June.”

A Congress source said that besides Vikhe Patil and Sattar, party MLAs Kalidas Kolambkar from Mumbai’s Wadala constituency, Jaykumar Gore from Satara’s Man constituency and former Congress leader Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh Rane from Sindhudurg’s Kankavli constituency are also on their way out of the party.

All these legislators are said to have campaigned against the Congress-NCP alliance for rival party candidates in this Lok Sabha election.

Also readCongress-NCP could have won 7 more Maharashtra seats, but this party played spoilsport

Congress denies rumours of defections

The defection of five MLAs from the Congress will reduce its tally to 37 from 42 in a 288-member House.

With the NCP having 41 MLAs, the Congress will no longer be the largest opposition party in the Assembly if the defections take place, losing its right to elect an opposition leader.

The post of the opposition leader in the Assembly has been lying vacant since Vikhe Patil stepped down.

The Congress had held a meeting of its MLAs last week in the presence of Maharashtra Congress in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge to elect a new opposition leader. While senior legislators such as Vijay Wadettiwar and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan are seen as front runners for the post, the party decided to leave the decision to the high command.

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, however, denied the rumours of defections. “Abdul Sattar has been expelled from the Congress and has lost his credibility. Whatever he says has no value and nobody will go with him,” he said.

“In 2014 (Assembly elections), BJP had fought the election with the backing of several Congress-NCP defectors. Now, they all have realised that BJP had only used their strength, but didn’t give them anything in return. Now, (Congress) leaders will always remember that before taking any decision,” Sawant added.

Read moreCongress is relying on a bunch of defeated leaders to beat Modi and Shah

Congress’ rout in Maharashtra

The Congress faced a massive drubbing in Maharashtra in this Lok Sabha election as its tally now stood at one, down from two in 2014 and 17 in 2009. The party suffered setbacks in the 2014 Assembly elections as well, reducing its footprint in the state to 42 MLAs from 82 MLAs earlier.

Over the last four-and-half years, the Maharashtra Congress has often been criticised for being a timid opposition to the BJP-led state government. Congress MLAs often said in confidence that Vikhe Patil was not as aggressive an opposition leader as it was required to be and that he went soft on the ruling dispensation.

While the Congress was hoping to regain its lost ground in this election, it was hamstrung by its own weaknesses — massive infighting and high-profile defections, besides a strong support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

If the Congress’ strength in the Assembly is further reduced and it loses the opposition leader’s post, it will relegate the party to the margins before the state elections, scheduled later this year.

Also readBJP-Shiv Sena’s massive win sweeps away bitterness, could help cement once-shaky alliance


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  1. A good time for the Congress and the NCP to merge. The issue on which the split took place is no longer relevant. Within months, the two came together and ruled the state in alliance for three terms. Apart from a decade together in Delhi as partners in the UPA. 2019 is the last big milestone in Shri Sharad Pawar’s political journey. Being out of power at both levels would make the transition more difficult.

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