With Lok Sabha polls just around the corner, the leaders are shifting their loyalties to join the ruling party. The leader of opposition in the state assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil are likely to join BJP. Both leaders are expected to join BJP during the scheduled rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state in the coming days. According to PTI sources, Vikhe-Patil would join BJP on April 12 in Ahmednagar and Mohite-Patil at Akluj in Solapur district on April 17. Already Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay Vikhe-Patil and Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil’s son Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil have joined BJP. Sujay is contesting against Congress-NCP candidate and sitting MLA Sangram Jagtap from Ahmednagar.
Congress MLA Bhausaheb Kamble said, “Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s exit will make some difference to Congress but it won’t make any difference to the Ahmednagar voters. Ahmednagar is considered as the bastion of Congress and voters are supporting the party.”
Thus, the reported exit of Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil is seen as a major setback for Congress and NCP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Vikhe-Patil is also likely to take his supporter MLAs with him. The exit of two young politicians from formidable Maratha political dynasties has caused a big shift towards the BJP in the power dynamics in Ahmednagar and Solapur districts.
Water Conservation Minister Ram Shinde stated, “BJP will become stronger with Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s induction into the party. Congress and NCP have failed to stop the defection of Vikhe-Patil. Already people are aware of the work done by BJP in the last five years. The leader of the opposition has failed to become an effective opposition leader.”
Speculations of Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil joining BJP was rife in political circles ever since his son Sujay joined BJP. There were also reports of Vikhe-Patil submitting resignation to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on ‘moral grounds’ but he denied it. Already NCP has alleged that Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has participated in BJP’s campaign in Ahmednagar. The NCP leaders from western Maharashtra have already forwarded a letter to Congress asking to take strict action against Vikhe-Patil. NCP’s Ahmednagar coordinator Ankush Kakde has written to State Congress president Ashok Chavan for taking action against Vikhe-Patil.
NCP MLA Rahul Jagtap said, “The exit of Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil won’t make any difference to NCP. We will continue to support NCP and its leader Sharad Pawar. We will abide by whatever decision he will take.”
Sujay Vikhe-Patil was keen to contest from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency and demanded a seat belonging to NCP quota. However, NCP was reluctant to part with the seat. Hence, Sujay quit Congress to join BJP. He is contesting Lok Sabha polls from Ahmednagar on BJP ticket. According to sources, supporters of Vikhe-Patil want him to join BJP before May 23 as there is a possibility that Congress might axe him once elections are over. Considering this, he is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party soon. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, who is the sitting MP of NCP from Madha constituency in Sholapur, was reportedly unhappy over being sidelined by NCP. He was earlier denied a ticket from Madha as Pawar himself had announced to contest from the constituency. However, Pawar later announced that he was not interested in contesting the election.
Sena MLA Tukaram Kate Shiv said, “Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil are big leaders of Maharashtra. Vikhe-Patil has a strong hold over Ahmednagar constituency and people support him. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil has a strong hold over Sholapur. If both the leaders are joining BJP, then Sena leaders contesting election will be benefited as Sena has a pre-poll alliance with BJP.”
Vikhe-Patil had earlier stated that he would not campaign for Congress-NCP nominees in Lok Sabha polls. Being an opposition leader, Vikhe-Patil is one of the top leaders of Congress and his exit will prove to be a severe blow for Congress. Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil had joined Shiv Sena when the Sena-BJP was in power in 1995, but he later resigned and re-joined the Congress. Elections to all the 48 seats in Maharashtra will be held in four phases beginning on April 11.