Maharashtra BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh on Tuesday announced his resignation, citing “failure of the government in the Centre and the state to tackle the problems of people”.
Deshmukh, who represents the Katol Assembly constituency in the Vidarbha region, has decided to join the Congress. He is likely to meet All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Rahul Gandhi in Wardha, where the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting began on Tuesday.
Deshmukh, who for the last two years had earned the tag of a BJP rebel, emailed his resignation letter to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde on Tuesday.
BJP sources said that although the resignation is a setback, the party’s top leadership, both in the state and the Centre, knew he was on his way out following public criticism of the government over the last two years.
“The BJP government in the Centre and the state have failed to tackle the problems of farmers, youths and ordinary people,” Deshmukh said. While indicating that he won’t contest the bypolls from Katol, he added, “I want to work on national issues,” clearly indicating his preference to explore options for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Deshmukh is the son of former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president and former cabinet minister Ranjit Deshmukh. His uncle Anil Deshmukh is an NCP leader, who was a cabinet minister in the Congress-NCP government.
In the 2014 state Assembly elections, the BJP gave Ashish Deshmukh a party ticket to contest from Katol. He contested against his own uncle and sitting NCP MLA Anil Deshmukh, defeating him. For the last two years, Ashish Deshmukh has publicly expressed his disappointment with the government in the Centre and the state. Although he never had any consistent demand, it varied from a demand for separate Vidarbha to issues of farmers and youths.
Last year, he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, expressing his disappointment with the government for not taking measures to address farmers’ problems. At the same time, he made the letter public, which upset the BJP leadership.
In successive Assembly sessions, he was often seen raking up issues that targeted the ruling BJP. The party had also issued him a showcause notice last year. He did not respond to it.
Last year, BJP MP Nana Patole had resigned from the Gondia-Bhandara Lok Sabha seat. He then joined the Congress. Patole had also resigned expressing disappointment with the government’s functioning in the Centre and the state.
A senior BJP functionary, requesting anonymity, said, “Whether it relates to Nana Patole or Ashish Deshmukh, the resignations were driven by political ambitions. Patole wanted to become a minister in the Modi government. Same was the political ambition of Ashish Deshmukh, who was hoping to get a cabinet berth in the Maharashtra government.”