A DAY after its Mumbai unit chief resigned from the party, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP suffered another major jolt on Friday. Chitra Wagh, the NCP state women president, met Pawar to offer her resignation. While she remained unavailable for comment, party sources confirmed the development.
According to sources, Wagh is likely to join the BJP in the next few days. Before tendering her resignation, she reportedly held meetings with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP state president Chandrakant Patil. Pawar had personally handpicked Wagh to lead the party’s women wing.
Besides Wagh, NCP legislator Vaibhav Pichad, who represents Ahmednagar’s Akole Assembly seat and is the son of former NCP state president Madukar Pichad, is also expected to join the BJP on July 30. The same day, Congress’ Wadala MLA Kalidas Kolambkar will also join the ruling party, said sources.
On Friday, former Congress minister Harshavardhan Patil, who is a part of the party’s election strategy committee for the state polls, also visited Fadnavis, accompanied by his daughter Ankita, who had recently won a zilla parishad election in Pune’s Indapur taluka.
While reports of Patil cosying up to the BJP leadership have been doing the rounds for some time, he has been denying plans of a possible switch of sides. In the 2014 Assembly polls, NCP’s Dattatray Bharne had defeated Patil from Indapur. Sources said NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who is Patil’s sworn political rival, has been opposing a proposal of vacating the seat for Patil. But Congress insiders said that attempts are being made to convince Patil to stay back.
On July 19, the BJP state chief had hinted at a mass exodus from the Opposition camp. “Many Congress and NCP legislators will be resigning in the coming eight to 10 days. A number of their MLAs are in touch with us. They will be given entry into our party at the appropriate moment,” Patil had said. “Had the Opposition MLAs resigned six months before Assembly elections, it would have necessitated bypolls,” he added.
Among sitting legislators, sources said Aslam Shaikh, Sunil Kedar, Jaykumar Gore, Gopaldas Aggarwal, Bharat Bhalke, Siddharam Mhetre (all Congress), Dilip Sopal, Shivendraraje Bhonsle, Avadhoot Tatkare, Bhaskar Jadhav and Babanrao Shinde (all NCP) are believed to be in touch with negotiators from the two ruling parties.
Rattled by the exodus, senior leaders from both Congress and NCP, including Pawar himself, had been trying to reach out to the disgruntled sections. But the trend of mass defections continues. Even as the two parties are trying to cobble together a grand Opposition alliance, senior leaders admit that the parties are getting smaller and smaller ahead of the state polls.
Meanwhile, hitting out at the defectors, NCP’s national spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “The ones who are leaving are those who do not have the will and the strength to contest an election. They’ve fallen prey to the ruling side’s trap and lure. But their going won’t hurt our prospects. We have alternatives available.” He also fired a barb at the BJP and Shiv Sena leadership. “Poaching of the Opposition’s legislators only shows they have little faith in the abilities of their own leaders,” said Malik.
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