In a major setback for the Congress party, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has resigned from the party's primary membership ahead of Lok Sabha polls, triggering spculations that he may join the Bharatiya Janata Party bandwagon.
But he allowed the rumours to rest for two days as he said that he would prefer to divulge details about his future political plans in 48 hours, emphasizing that he has not been in contact with any political party regarding his future plans.
He expressed that he is not the type of person to discuss the party's internal matters publicly and has not influenced any Congress MLA with his decision.
Chavan submitted his resignation to Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Nana Patole
"I have resigned from the Assembly membership as an MLA. I have given my resignation to the Speaker. I have resigned from the Congress Working Committee and the Congress primary membership. I have not decided to join any party. I will clear my stand on joining a party after two days," Chavan told reporters after resigning from Congress.
When asked if he would be joining the BJP, the former Maharashtra CM said, "I will tell you in 48 hours".
"Chavan also clarified that he has not been in contact with any political party regarding his future plans.He further said that he is not a person who would discuss the party's internal matters publicly.
"I have not spoken to any Congress MLA about my decision. I have no such intention (of influencing them)," he added.
Meanwhile, several Congress leaders condemned the move, calling it a 'dirty political' game.
Party leader Prithviraj Chavhan said, "Our senior colleague Ashok Chavan has resigned from the party and also as the MLA. It's a sad decision. This had been talked about for a long time. We didn't think he would make this decision. He was made the state CM on two occasions. What went wrong, who was he upset about--only he will tell about this. This is very tragic. All members of the Congress Legislative Party are together. BJP leaders are spreading rumours that some people are in touch with them," Chavan said while addressing the media.
"It is really surprising. This hasn't happened in Maharashtra before. It is totally a dirty political game by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)," he added.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut wondered whether the former Mahrasthra Chief Minister would stake a claim on the grand old party and its 'hand' symbol.
Drawing parallels with Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) and his deputy Ajit Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) who, after splitting from their respective parties, staked and won their claim to the Sena party symbol, Raut said that such a scenario was possible.
"I can't believe it. Till yesterday they were together, discussing; today he left... Will Chavan, like Eknath Mindhe and Ajit Pawar, now claim Congress and take the 'hand' symbol? And will the Election Commission give them to him? Anything can happen in our country!," Raut said in a post on X.
The Shiv Sena (UBT), the NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) and the Congress are allies in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance.
Meanwhile, Congress MP Manickam Tagore shared a snippet from the classic Hindi movie 'Sholay', in which Gabbar Singh, the character played by actor Amjad Khan is seen saying, "Jo dhar gaya, sanjo mar gaya" (Whoever is afraid is considered dead). "True", wrote the Congress leader tagging Chavan's August 2023 post in which the former state congress chief expressed gratitude for being chosen as a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
Congress leader Yashomati Thakur claimed that the central government is trying to scare the opposition leaders through 'White Paper'.
"The question is why he left Congress. It is because the central government is trying to scare the opposition leaders through 'White Paper'. Today, the BJP has fewer of its own leaders and more outsiders. They are so insecure that they just want to remain in power," Thakur said.
"We will remain in the INDIA bloc and will fight for the constitution and the protection of secularism till our last breath," she added.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also took a swipe at the BJP, stating that the 'washing machine' of the party is very powerful.
"It is clear that the special washing machine functioning in our country is very powerful...The exit of some people doesn't mean Congress will break...There is some sadness but this won't affect the party," he said.
In a similar reaction, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Clyde Crasto took a jibe at the BJP, claiming that if you go to the party, you get cleaned in their 'washing machine'.
"It is a sad day that he (Ashok Chavan) left the Congress. The party gave everything to him. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was putting pressure on him. If you go to the BJP, you get cleaned in their washing machine," Crasto said.
"It is the BJP that said that Chavan is allegedly involved in the Adarsh Housing Society scam. They are trying to break the party. The BJP wanted to make a 'Congress-free India', but they themselves are turning into 'Congress-associated' BJP," he alleged.
The NCP leader further added that the INDIA bloc will stay strong.
"The INDIA bloc will stay strong. If Ashok Chavan has left, a new leader will join the party and assume his responsibilities," Clyde Crasto said.
Meanwhile, amid speculations that Chavan could join the BJP, Maharashtra Deputy CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis gave a cryptic reply, saying, "Several tall leaders of other parties want to join BJP. Especially, several Congress leaders are in touch with us because of the behaviour of the senior leaders. They are feeling suffocated at their party. Who all is in our contact list? That will be revealed soon. Aage aage dekhiye hota hain kya."
Ashok Chavan was the Vice President and General Secretary of the Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress Committee from 1986 to 1995.
He served the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for three terms, starting in 1999 and ending in May 2014.
He served as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State from December 8, 2008, to November 9, 2010. On November 9, 2010, the Congress Party asked him to resign from office over corruption allegations relating to the Adarsh Housing Society scam.
In the 2014 general elections, Chavan was elected from the Nanded constituency but lost the seat in 2019 Pratap Patil Chikhalikar of the BJP.
Chavan comes from an influential political family. He is the son of Shankarrao Chavan, a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Union Home Minister.
He is the third big name to desert the Congress ship in Maharashtra. First to go was former South Mumbai MP Milind Deora, followed by former MLA Baba Siddique.
Chavan, who represents Bhokar, Nanded, as an MLA, was reported to have severe differences with state party chief Nana Patole. The resignation came as a big blow to the Congress party ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
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