As two more of it leaders walked into the BJP fold and more are expected to join, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) continues to put up a brave front, insisting that recent defections will not have any bearing on the party.
The NCP believes there is enough young firepower within its fold who are capable of holding the party together and taking on the challenges in the ensuing assembly elections.
“Let them leave those who want to… All those are actually cowards. They are afraid of losing the elections,” Nawab Malik, national spokesperson and senior NCP leader, said.
Malik said those who are leaving the party are entangled in “some legal issues” and were, therefore, desperately looking for the protective blanket of the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena. “They are in a problem and are hoping that the BJP and Shiv Sena, who are ruling the state, will help them sort out their issues,” he said.
Malik’s remarks came a day after two NCP leaders – former Kolhapur MP Dhananjay Mahadik and Osmanabad MLA Rana Jagjitsinh Patil – joined the saffron party in the presence of BJP president Amit Shah in Solapur.
BJP, however, said it would not intervene in any cases the new-comers are entangled in. “Law will take its own course. We will not intervene in any in any legal issues that the new-comers are involved in,” BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhaye said.
At a press conference in Pune on July 28, NCP chief Sharad Pawar too had openly said the country was witnessing an unprecedented degree of misuse of investigating agencies at the hands of state and central governments, in an attempt to coerce leaders from opposition parties to join the BJP ahead of the state elections.
Pawar had cited the examples of party leaders Chhagan Bhujbal, who is under investigation for an alleged scam in the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi; Hassan Mushrif who faced an ED raid; and Chitra Wagh, whose husband was facing cases by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Wagh had joined BJP while Bhujbal is likely to join the Sena. “Mushrif had consistently refused to join the BJP despite pressure from the party,” Pawar had said.
Last month in Satara, Pawar had alleged that some leaders were forced to join BJP-Shiv Sena as the government did not allow them to carry out development works in their constituencies.
“All the three NCP MLAs, including Shivendraraje Bhosale of Satara, Vaibhav Pichad of Akole and Sandeep Naik from Airoli, who left the party were unable to get work done in their respective constituencies. This shows the ruling party’s hostile attitude towards MLAs,” Pawar had said.
NCP MP Vandana Chavan alleged the state government has been vindictive towards the opposition leaders. “It is using all the unfair means against the opposition leaders. It also threatens them of action if they refuse to join the saffron party,” she said.
Chavan said NCP has seen leaders quitting, but this is the first time such an exodus is being witnessed. “It is true that the party is in the midst of heavy defection but the party has strong leaders who will carry it forward,” she said.
Sharing her views, Malik said the party is currently deliberating upon developing new leadership. “We are not thinking of those leaving the party. We are thinking of developing strong leadership. We have young leaders who are capable of holding the party together and taking the ensuing challenge,” he said, citing the case of Shirur MP Amol Kolhe who managed to draw huge crowds through his Shiv Swarajya Yatra.
Chavan said speculations that the NCP chief has been rattled by mass defections were not true. “What happened at last week’s press conference where the party chief flared up is an aberration. We have not seen him so strongly though he does not chide journalists for asking irrelevant questions,” she said.
Chavan said she spoke to the party chief a week ago and he did not sound agitated by the developments. “He did not sound a bit disturbed by the defections. In fact, he told me that we need to gear up fully for the forthcoming elections. We discussed the candidates for Pune seats. He too said we need to hold a meet and discuss the candidates,” Chavan said.
The NCP MP added that even relatives leaving the party will not disturb Pawar. “This is because the entire party is a family for him… These things don’t perturb him. Defections have taken place in the past as well,” she said.
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