Mumbai, Feb 12 (PTI) In a setback to Congress ahead of Lok Sabha elections, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Monday tendered his resignation from the party, amid speculation that he may join BJP.
The departure of Chavan, son of former chief Minister and Union Home Minister S B Chavan, follows the recent exits of senior Congress leaders Baba Siddique and Milind Deora, deepening the party's challenges in the state.
Amid speculation about the 65-year-old leader's possible induction into the BJP for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls, neither Chavan nor the BJP has confirmed this development.
Responding to queries about Chavan's political future, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis cryptically remarked, "Aagey aagey dekho hota hai kya" (wait and watch what happens).
Amid the changing political landscape in Mumbai, the news of Chavan's resignation prompted sharp reactions with Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray claiming the BJP is evolving into a "Congress Occupied BJP."
Expressing astonishment at Chavan's exit from the Congress, he highlighted the potential repercussions on state farmers' welfare if leaders prioritise personal interests.
Chavan emphasised that his decision to leave the Congress was personal and affirmed that he had not yet decided to join the BJP.
In his resignation letter to state Congress chief Nana Patole, Chavan stated he was resigning as a primary member and also stepped down as an MLA by submitting his resignation to assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar.
"I have not yet made any decision to join BJP," Chavan told reporters and also maintained that he was not going to discuss anything happening within Congress at a public forum.
Meanwhile, Independent MLA from Amravati, Ravi Rana, claimed that 10 to 15 MLAs are in touch with Ashok Chavan.
Rana claimed more such "earthquakes" will take place on February 15 during Amit Shah's visit to the Vidarbha region in east Maharashtra. He also claimed that "earthquakes" will rock the Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar).
He told reporters that Tivsa MLA and ex-minister Yashomati Thakur of Congress is also in contact with the BJP, a claim she denied.
Despite swirling rumours of his potential BJP affiliation, Chavan, who was state Congress chief from 2015-19, maintained he had not finalised any decision about joining the BJP and cited unfamiliarity with the party's operational dynamics.
"I haven't taken any decision yet on joining the BJP and don't know BJP's working system", he added.
Chavan underscored that his choice to depart from Congress was independent and refrained from attributing specific reasons for his exit.
The backdrop of the Adarsh Building scam mentioned in a white paper tabled in Parliament last week, a scandal that led to his resignation as state's Chief Minister in 2010, has drawn attention as a potential factor in his departure, a claim though denied by Chavan.
Chavan is an accused in the Adarsh housing society scam wherein a 31-storey posh building in south Mumbai was constructed allegedly on land owned by the Defence Ministry without getting the requisite permissions and clearances.
Chavan is an accused under the provisions of the IPC for criminal conspiracy and cheating and under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Some of Chavan's relatives had figured in the list of beneficiaries.
CBI later in 2014 sought to delete Chavan's name from the case but this was rejected both by the special CBI court and later by the Bombay High Court in 2015.
The matter is pending before the Supreme Court which had in 2018 stayed proceedings in the case. Chavan said he has not contacted any Congress leader or MLA when asked if a chunk of Congressmen will follow suit.
"There are many people who love me and support me. They tried to contact me, but I could not respond. The decision I have taken today won't be reversed. I do not know what other MLAs or Congress leaders will think or do. I have not contacted any one of them," he added.
As reports regarding Chavan's possible exit from Congress were circulating for months, the news of his resignation came less of a surprise to state party leaders.
Amidst the political turmoil, charges and reactions flew between parties, with BJP state chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule hinting at unrest within the Congress ranks and welcoming those aligning with the BJP's developmental agenda.
Former CM Prithviraj Chavan expressed disappointment over the departures from the Congress fold and highlighted the repercussions such actions might have on the upcoming electoral landscape.
Amidst the political churn, voices within the Congress party such as Jairam Ramesh and Supriya Shrinate addressed the challenges of remaining in opposition politics in the current scenario.
Ramesh, without naming Ashok Chavan, said an exit by betrayers "opens up vast new opportunities to those whose growth they have always stunted....When friends and colleagues leave a political party that has given them much - perhaps much more (than) they deserved - it is always a matter of anguish," he said in a post on X.
The Congress leader wrote, "But to those who are vulnerable, THAT Washing Machine will always prove more attractive than ideological commitment or personal loyalties."
Opposition leader Vijay Wadettiwar affirmed his commitment to Congress, dispelling speculations about a potential switch.
"I have been working with Ashok Chavan since 2006 and was twice a minister in his cabinet. He did not discuss anything with me. We do not know the reason. But the manner in which BJP is breaking parties, people have not liked this and they will give a befitting reply in this election," he said.
VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar and Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut expressed divergent views.
"It is hard to believe that Ashok Chavan has joined the BJP. He was with us till yesterday and was holding discussions. Like Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar, will Chavan also stake claim on the Congress now and get the party's symbol? In our country, anything can happen," Raut said.
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)