Most of the rebel candidates who have joined BJP are facing criminal and corruption cases.
The BJP has been issuing tickets to those leaders who have quit Congress, NCP in an attempt to improve its performance in constituencies where it is weak. Most of these leaders are tainted and have criminal and corruption charges filed against them. Many leaders from Congress and NCP have shifted loyalties to join BJP after its impressive performance in the Lok Sabha election. Shiv Sena, NCP and MNS have already criticised the BJP for poaching leaders and said that the party lacked confidence to contest on its own hence it is taking this stance. The BJP is contesting on 253 seats in Maharashtra and has alloted 35 seats to leaders belonging to opposition parties like Congress and NCP.
MNS MLA from Ghatkopar Ram Kadam had quit the party to join BJP. An FIR was filed against Kadam for cheating and violating the model code of conduct. Former medical education minister Vijay Kumar Gavit, expelled from the NCP after his daughter Heena contested on BJP ticket in Lok Sabha elections, is the party candidate from his pocket borough Nandurbar. Independent MLA Anil Gote, one of the accused in the Telgi fake stamp paper scam, is in the poll arena from Dhule city. He is supporting the Sena-BJP.
BJP has fielded Congress rebel Atul Bhosale from Karad from where former CM Prithviraj Chavan is contesting. Among the rebels is Minister of State Sanjay Sawkare of NCP who joined BJP a few days back and will contest on BJP ticket to seek re-election from Bhusawal seat.
Political observers said the BJP had taken a calculated risk in importing candidates. “Most of them are influential local leaders. The BJP hopes to benefit from their influence. For instance, in Western Maharashtra, the party’s influence is less compared to the NCP and Congress. The BJP imported candidates from these two parties mostly in this region. Some are capable enough to win as independents,” said Ashok Chousalkar, a political analyst.”
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray criticised the BJP for poaching leaders belonging from Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and MNS. He said that two of the BJP candidates are originally from the MNS and six were in the Shiv Sena.
“The BJP is fooling the people. They have used the old bottle, old wine and have only used a new label,” the MNS leader said. He pointed out that NCP ministers Babanrao Pachpute and Vijaykumar Gavit, against whom there were accusations of corruption, are now BJP candidates.
Raj said, “They do not have enough candidates of their own to contest elections and are seeking a complete majority to rule the state. They have been claiming that they want to dethrone the “corrupt” Congress-NCP government, but have fielded candidates from the same parties. If you look at it carefully, you will realise that Mr Modi is actually seeking votes for people from the Congress and NCP.”
State Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil said, “BJP holds chintan bhaithaks and what not to propound its ideology. And now look what it is doing… poaching candidates. It clearly reflects that not party loyalty, something else matters to BJP…”