Ashok Chavan’s exit from Congress fuels speculation of BJP switch

The Congress is set to contest these elections as part of the INDIA bloc alongside Uddhav Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP.

| Updated: 13 February, 2024 1:46 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is expected to join the BJP today in Mumbai, a day after stepping down from the Congress, dealing a significant blow to the party in the state ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress is set to contest these elections as part of the INDIA bloc alongside Uddhav Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. On Monday, Chavan did not reveal his future plans but stated that he was not in discussions with any political party, promising to announce his next move within 48 hours. Although speculations suggested his BJP affiliation, Chavan denied any concrete links with the BJP and emphasised that no decision had been made.

While the Maharashtra Congress has experienced notable departures, this is the first that directly aids the BJP, as previous exits like Milind Deora and Baba Siddique aligned with BJP allies in Maharashtra, namely Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP, rather than the BJP itself.

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Following Ashok Chavan’s resignation, there were rumours that he might secure a Rajya Sabha seat from the BJP. However, Uddhav Thackeray expressed concern, stating that sending Chavan to the Rajya Sabha would disrespect martyred soldiers. He recalled previous remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had accused Chavan of corruption and disrespecting the families of martyred soldiers.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier gone to Nanded (Chavan’s home district) and spoken about corruption committed by Ashok Chavan. They had said Chavan disrespected families of the martyred soldiers…But if the prime minister sends him (Chavan) to Rajya Sabha, it will amount to disrespecting our soldiers,” Uddhav said.

While speaking to the reporters, Chavan said that he had resigned from the Assembly membership, the Congress Working Committee, and the primary membership of the Congress. He reiterated that he had not made a decision regarding joining any party and would clarify his position in two days.

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The unexpected resignation of Ashok Chavan has put the Congress in a difficult position, with many MLAs likely to follow suit. Ramesh Chenniyhala, Maharashtra Congress in-charge, has convened a crucial meeting of party leaders in Mumbai to address the situation. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam indicated that Ashok Chavan was dissatisfied with the working style of a particular Congress leader, specifically mentioning Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) President Nana Patole.

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