Ending weeks of speculation, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Kakade on Sunday accused the BJP of “ignoring” him and announced that he would soon join the Congress. He was elected as an Independent candidate in Rajya Sabha and later became associate member of BJP. “I am joining the Congress soon. I have good relations with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, but the BJP has been ignoring me from sometime. I am joining Congress irrespective of the decision the party would take on the candidate from Pune Lok Sabha seat,” he told reporters here.
Kakade said he has already met several Congress leaders in New Delhi and expressed his desire to work with the party. Praising the Gandhi family for “sacrificing a lot for the country”, he said: “Senior Congress leaders have informed me that they would be officially inducting me in the party soon. I am ready to take up any responsibility the party chief entrusts upon me.”
While there has been a lot of speculation that the Congress will give Kakade a ticket from the Pune parliamentary seat, local party leaders have opposed the proposition. They have urged the party to give opportunity to a “loyal” party worker.
Kakade, who was an associate member of the BJP, earlier had openly expressed his desire to contest from the Pune parliamentary constituency and said he was confident of getting a BJP ticket. Credited for notching BJP’s first and biggest victory in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in 2017, Kakade’s relationship with senior BJP leaders had soured after he had predicted the party’s loss in the Gujarat assembly polls (held in December 2017).
In a public statement later, Kakade had also urged the BJP to stay away from renaming cities and drop the mandir-masjid issue. The Pune-based realtor had also said that the BJP should consider its defeat in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh assembly elections (held in 2018) as eye-opener and urged it to only “stick to development agenda”.
His comments, reportedly, had not gone down well with the BJP leadership, who had snubbed Kakade saying he had no business teaching the party. Kakade was also kept away from all programmes and functions of the BJP, including a review of the party’s preparations in Pune by party chief Amit Shah.
According to sources, the BJP had also turned down his demand for a party ticket from Pune Lok Sabha seat and instead offered him a ticket from Baramati seat to take on sitting Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule, daughter of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Kakade reportedly had also reached out to senior NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar, besides RPI(A) leader Ramdas Athawale for supporting his candidature for Lok Sabha elections of Pune seat. Meanwhile, Pravin Gaikwad, one of the Maratha leaders and state president of Sambhaji Brigade, has also been vying to contest from Pune LS seat on a Congress ticket and has been camping in New Delhi and Mumbai to press for his candidature.
Local Congress leaders Abhay Chhajed, Mohan Joshi, Ulhas Pawar and Anant Gadgil have also staked claim for contesting from the Pune seat, even as senior party leaders have been pressing for former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to contest on the seat despite the leader’s reluctance.