Ahead of the Assembly polls, key desertions from the Congress and the NCP camps have reshaped Maharashtra’s political landscape. As many as 24 senior leaders — including 13 serving legislators and 10 former ministers — have defected to join either the BJP or the Shiv Sena since the Congress-NCP alliance’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls. With NCP’s sitting MP from Satara, Udayanraje Bhosale, set to join the BJP on Saturday, the outgoing trend appears to be continuing. Here’s a list of a few NCP and Congress leaders who have recently joined the BJP and the Sena:
Among the first ones to jump ship after the LS outcome, Vikhe-Patil’s exit was a big jolt to the Congress. A third-generation leader from the Vikhe-Patil family of Ahmednagar that has dominated the region’s politics for decades, he was formerly the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and a five-term MLA from Shirdi. He is seen as the most influential politician in Ahmednagar. Son Sujay, who had joined the BJP before the polls, is now a sitting MP. After his induction into the BJP, Vikhe-Patil was sworn in as the Housing Minister in the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government.
With ex-Congress minister Harshavardhan Patil’s induction earlier this week, the BJP wants to wrest Indapur from the NCP, which borders the Pawar’s stronghold of Baramati. Patil, a four-term MLA from the constituency, is a sworn political rival of former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who represents Baramati. Patil has served as a minister in all state government formations since 1995. In 2014, he lost the Indapur seat to NCP’s Dattatray Bharne.
With the exit of Kshirsagar, the NCP lost its sole MLA in Marathwada’s Beed district, where the BJP controls the remaining five seats. Upset at being sidelined in the NCP’s local politics, Kshirsagar has buried his past differences with district’s guardian minister Pankaja Munde, but joined the Shiv Sena to assure himself of a renomination from the seat. The Sena, meanwhile, is banking on him to open its account in Beed this time.
Not so long ago, the NCP was Navi Mumbai’s most dominant party. But with defection of former minister Ganesh Naik and his son, Sandeep, the BJP has strengthened its position further in the region. Naik, the former NCP strongman, runs a personal fiefdom of sorts in Navi Mumbai. Incidentally, there has been some rebellion from within the local BJP and the Sena ranks over Naik’s induction.
The Shiv Sena has gained the upper hand in seat-sharing talks with the BJP for the Guhagar seat in Konkan. While the BJP has traditionally contested on this seat, Jadhav had wrested the seat for the NCP last time around. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray would also like Jadhav to help him wrest the Kankavli seat, which is the pocketborough of former CM Narayan Rane. But his induction is seen as a setback for Sena minister Ramdas Kadam, who hails from the same region.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, the NCP and Congress had won five out of the six seats in Satara district. The induction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s descendent Shivendraraje Bhosale, a three-term MLA from Satara-Jawali, is part of the BJP’s larger ploy to make deeper inroads into the Western Maharashtra sugar belt. Bhosale’s family has represented the seat consistently since 1978. Incidentally, Satara MP Udayanraje Bhosale, who is also expected to join the BJP, is Shivendraraje’s sworn rival in local politics. The BJP has also been in touch with another Sharad Pawar confidant Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, and Congress MLC Anandrao Patil, who is a close aide of former CM Prithviraj Chavan. It had earlier inducted ex-MLA and cooperative baron, Madan Bhosle, in its ranks.
The import of former NCP state president Madhukar Pichad, also an ex-minister, and his son Vaibhav, who was elected from Akole in 2014, is an attempt by the BJP to make further inroads into the Ahmednagar district. In the last election, the Congress and the NCP had won six out of the 12 seats in the region. But this time, with both Vikhe-Patil and Pichad in its camp, the BJP seems to be in a very strong position. It won five seats last time.
Rana Jagjitsinh Patil
Rana Jagjitsinh and his father, Padamsinh Patil, considered to be a close confidant of Sharad Pawar, have dominated politics in Osmanabad for four decades. Padamsinh’s sister Sunetra is also Ajit Pawar’s wife. The father-son duo have been ministers in the Congress-NCP governments in the state. Rana Jagjitsinh was also NCP’s LS 2019 candidate from Osmanabad.
Having failed to retain the Kolhapur LS seat, the NCP leader has now crossed over to the BJP. The Mahadik family continues to hold considerable clout in Kolhapur politics. His induction into the BJP might also make the election difficult for former Congress minister Satej Patil, who had openly campaigned against Mahadik in the Lok Sabha poll.
The former Mumbai Congress president is yet to formally join any party after quitting the Congress earlier this week, but is tipped to join the BJP. Ironically, the Kalina seat, from where he has traditionally fought, is with the Shiv Sena. With Singh seen as an influential face among the North Indians, the BJP is keen to make further inroads into the community.
The Sena has plans to field party’s heir apparent, Aaditya Thackeray, from the Worli seat, and Ahir’s induction is aimed at easing his way. Ahir, a former minister and former Mumbai NCP president, is a former MLA from Worli, and also enjoys some clout in Sewri, which he has represented in the past. A nephew of gangster Arun Gawli, Ahir has asked the Sena to nominate him from Byculla. In former NCP state women president Chitra Wagh’s exit, the NCP has lost another face in Mumbai. She joined the BJP.
By importing the six-time MLA from Solapur’s Barshi seat, the Sena has improved its chances of winning the seat. Sopal, another close Pawar-aide, is also a former minister. Another NCP leader from Solapur’s Karmala district, Rashmi Bagal, has also joined the Sena. Former Congress MLA Dileep Mane, who had earlier represented Solapur-South, has also joined the party.
In 2014, Kolambkar was among the five Congress candidates from Mumbai to win the assembly polls. He had won from Wadala by a narrow margin, but has been openly canvassing for the BJP ever since his “mentor” Narayan Rane quit the Congress and joined hands with the BJP in 2017.
Nirmala Gavit, Pandurang Barora
Two tribal MLAs — Nirmala Gavit (Igatpuri) and Pandurang Barora (Shahapur) — have joined the Sena from the Congress and the NCP, respectively. While Gavit’s entry is expected to strengthen the party in Nashik, Barora’s induction is aimed at further enhancing the party’s footprint in Thane.
In the Lok Sabha election, Gore, then a Congress MLA, had publicly declared that he would not campaign for NCP’s candidate Sanjay Shinde from the Madha Lok Sabha seat. Instead, he canvassed for another ex-Congressman, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, with whom he shares closed ties. The latter won the election and ensured that Gore joins the BJP as well.
After being expelled by the Congress for anti-party activities during the Lok Sabha poll, Sattar — a former minister, who had won the Sillod assembly seat in Aurangabad in 2014 — initially held several rounds of negotiations with the BJP. After not getting a concrete assurance from the BJP, he joined the Sena, which is expected to field him from the same constituency. The Sena also wants to promote him as one of the Muslim faces in the party.
The 44-year-old actor had joined the Congress in March, but quit last week blaming infighting within the Mumbai Congress. She has not joined any party since. She was the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Mumbai (North). While she lost the election by a big margin, her election campaign had been in the limelight.