WITH CHIEF Minister Devendra Fadnavis urging him to walk into the BJP fold, Bhosari MLA Mahesh Landge is apparently getting ready to join the saffron party. If Landge embraces BJP, it will come as a major blow ahead of the civic elections to the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, which rules the Pimpri-Chinchwad — one of the few cities in Maharashtra where NCP has an upper hand, say political observers.
Last week, Mahesh led a delegation of 14 corporators from Bhosari assembly constituency to meet the Chief Minister in Mumbai with a slew of demands. “At the meeting, the chief minister urged Mahesh to join BJP. Earlier too, the CM had made a similar request,” said Kartik Landge, brother of Mahesh Landge.
However, Mahesh put certain conditions before Fadnavis. He told the CM that if his government takes up the 14 issues of his constituency and resolves them, he will promptly join the party. “Already, the CM has resolved three of the issues, one of them being handing over of the stretch of Pune-Nashik Highway from Moshi to PCMC,” said Kartik.
While Mahesh remained unavailable for comment, Kartik indicated that his brother was heading to BJP. “Since the CM is serious about resolving the issues raised by my brother, the chances of him joining the BJP has increased,” Kartik said, adding that the final call will be taken in about a month’s time.
Kartik said his brother was under pressure from NCP not to join the BJP. “We have received several feelers from NCP in the past couple of days. In fact, since Ajit Pawar was in Pimpri-Chinchwad today, from morning we have got calls for a meeting with Ajit,” he said. Till late, Mahesh Landge remained out of bounds.
Pimpri-Chinchwad BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar said, “It is true that BJP has been trying to rope in Mahesh Landge. The government has met several demands of the MLA. The party believes that it has a good chance then of snatching power in Pimpri-Chinchwad.”
Two years ago, during the assembly elections, Landge, who was an NCP corporator, had contested from Bhosari as an independent candidate after he was denied a ticket. He had defeated NCP candidate and sitting MLA Vilas Lande then.
Meanwhile, rattled by Landge’s apparent decision to join BJP, Ajit Pawar on Saturday held an urgent meeting of NCP corporators from Pimpri-Chinchwad. NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad unit chief Sanjog Waghere led the delegation. Waghere has been making efforts on behalf of the party to persuade Landge not to join the BJP. In fact, he made a statement that “Landge belonged to NCP and he will not go the BJP way.”
NCP leaders said meeting was called to discuss the situation arising out of Landge’s decision to join BJP and keep the party united. “If Landge joins BJP, it will prove to be a major threat for the NCP in retaining power in PCMC. Already, the party suffered a major jolt after other NCP stalwart Laxman Jagtap joined BJP two years back. These two MLAs have the wherewithals to upset the NCP applecart in Pimpri-Chinchwad,” said an NCP corporator. Among others, former MLAs Vilas Landge and Annas Bansode, standing committee chairman Dabbu Aswani, top leaders like Azam Pansare, Hanumant Gawde, Prashant Shitole, Haresh Aswani, Mayur Kalate, Shyam Walhekar, Nana Kate were present.
When his reaction was sought, Ajit Pawar said, “It is an individual decision. We cannot keep people tied down. Till the janata is with us, we don’t have to fear anything.” When specifically asked whether Landge joining BJP will affect NCP, Pawar said, “no comments”.
NCP leader Yogesh Behl, who is considered the right hand man of Ajit Pawar and was present at the meeting, said the party was not worried over Landge joining BJP. “In fact, at the meeting, Ajit Pawar rebuked some partymen who tried to woo Landge. He said those who want to go to BJP, let them go. He said let your work speak for itself. Tell the voters what you have done for them,” he said. Pawar told partymen to work united “unmindful of people trying to create fissures in the party.”
Political observers said after Laxman Jagtap, Landge joining BJP will cause a major political upheaval. “NCP has reasons to worry as both Jagtap and Landge are heavyweight political leaders and NCP has none to match their reputation. The party has only a few civic bodies under its belt in Maharashtra. PCMC is among the top civic bodies in Maharashtra and NCP loses this one, it will be major loss to the party looking for resurrection after the embarrassment of assembly elections,” said a political observer.