In a major jolt to the Congress and the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi-I.N.D.I.A bloc, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan resigned from the grand old party on Monday.
Though Chavan (65) has not announced his next destination, he is expected to join the BJP.
A two-time chief minister, Chavan is son of former two-time chief minister and ex-union minister late Shankarrao Chavan - the first father-son duo in the state to have such a distinction.
Chavan, a Maratha leader from Nanded in the Marathwada region, is considered close to top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and had a good relationship with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.
The decision has come as a shocker, as on Sunday, Chavan had attended the strategy meeting of the state Congress which was presided over by AICC general secretary Ramesh Chennithala.
As part of ‘Operation Lotus’, the BJP may use the services of Chavan to engineer a split in the Maharashtra Congress, which occupies the lion’s share in the opposition benches.
BJP leaders including state unit president Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis dropped indications that Chavan may join the BJP.
Chavan shot off letters resigning from primary membership of the Congress and as member of Congress Working Party, the highest decision making body of the party.
आज सोमवार, दि. १२ फेब्रुवारी २०२४ रोजी मी ८५-भोकर विधानसभा मतदारसंघाच्या सदस्यत्वाचा राजीनामा विधानसभा अध्यक्ष राहुलजी नार्वेकर यांच्याकडे दिला आहे.— Ashok Chavan (@AshokChavanINC) February 12, 2024
Today i.e. on Monday, February 12, 2024, I have tendered my resignation as Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from 85-Bhokar…
He also met Speaker Rahul Narwekar and resigned as a member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly - reducing the strength of the Congress to 43.
“I have quit the Congress party, as MLA and from all other party posts today. I have broken all my involvement with the party. I worked honestly for the party. Until yesterday I was working there. However, now I have made a decision to quit, and I do not hold any grudges against anyone.,” he said.
To repeated queries, he declared that he was yet to decide on joining any party, including the BJP, and will announce his next moves in a couple of days.
He said that he would not elaborate on what he left as he does not want to speak about internal matters and engage in mud-slinging.
There are chances that Chavan may join the BJP and would be accommodated with a Rajya Sabha berth.
“There are many senior Congress leaders, who are hard working, are suffocating. Many people would join us… aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya,” Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, adding that those expressing faith in leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be respected as per their experience and work.
“Many leaders of other parties including Congress are in touch with us,” said state BJP President Chandrashekar Bawankule.
“Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is abusing the OBC community..who will stay with him,” he said.
Fadnavis and Bawankule said that many good leaders are suffocating in Congress because of its bleak future.
This is a major blow to the Congress after the exit of Milind Deora, who had joined Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Baba Siddique, who had entered Ajit Pawar-led NCP.
“There are internal squabbles within the Congress ranks and files,” Bawankule said.
"It is unfortunate and shocking. We don't know what compulsion he had or what pressure was put on him. He even participated in our strategy meeting yesterday. Don't know what happened during the night that he decided to quit the party," said former chief minister and Congressman Prithviraj Chavan.