Congress headed for trouble in Maharashtra (Lead)

BY ANAND SINGH   |  New Delhi


After rumblings in its units in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana in the wake of the Lok Sabha poll debacle, the Congress could be headed for a problem in Maharashtra where its 10 MLAs, at least, are said to be considering switching to the ruling BJP.

The Congress has 42 MLAs in the 288-member state Assembly and its leader in the House Radhakrisha Vikhe Patil has already joined the BJP.

A senior Congress leader from Maharashtra told IANS: "Nothing seems to be good in the party unit following the rout in the Lok Sabha elections. After Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil joined the BJP two days ago, three other MLAs -- Abdul Sattar, Nitish Rane and Kalidas Kolambkar -- are in touch with the BJP leaders in the state."

Patil's son Sujay had left the Congress and joined the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. He contested from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat on BJP ticket and won.

Radhakrishna Patil did not campaign in the Lok Sabha elections, days after which he quit as Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and then resigned as MLA as well to join the BJP.

Sattar was expelled from the Congress in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls and on Monday he met senior state minister Girish Mahajan and some other BJP leaders.

Kolambkar is a former Shiv Sena leader, who joined to the Congress along with former Chief Minister Narayan Rane. However, after Rane parted ways with the Congress, Kolambkar too has openly expressed his discontent with the party's functioning .

"The BJP is in touch with six more state MLAs, including Rahul Bondre, Jaykumar Gore and Bharat Bhalke. They might join the saffron party just a month or two before the Assembly elections," said the senior Congress leader. 

He added that they were likely to follow the Gujarat model, where many party legislators joined the ruling party just ahead of the Assembly polls.

A Congress MLA and former Cabinet Minister, requesting not to be named, said he too was contacted by the BJP. "But I refused their offer," he told IANS. He added that the BJP was trying to poach at least 10 Congress legislators in the state.

Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, meanwhile, said in Mumbai on Saturday that at least 25 MLAs of the Congress and the NCP are in touch with him, some of whom have met him personally or called him over phone.

Congress in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjuna Kharge is in the state to select the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and also quell the rebellion.

When asked about the poaching of its MLAs by the BJP, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told IANS, "Whenever BJP comes to power, they utilise money to poach the MLAS of other parties. And this is not new what it is doing in Maharashtra."

Out of the 288 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP bagged 122 seats, the Shiv Sena 63, the Congress 42 and the NCP 41 in the 2014 elections. The Shiv Sena later joined the BJP-led government.

After the debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has been witnessing rumblings in its units in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, with questions being raised over the state party leadership.

In Telangana, 12 of the 18 MLAs of the Congress switched over to the ruling TRS on Thursda. IANS