With 2 High-profile Inductions, BJP Eyes Bigger Share of Pie in Indapur & Navi Mumbai Ahead of Assembly Polls
The BJP knows that Harshavardhan Patil's entry is a huge setback for the Congress. But the saffron party will have to balance the advantage his induction brings with the aspirations of its local leaders.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis welcomes former minister and Congress leader Harshavardhan Patil to the BJP, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (PTI)
Mumbai: Days after openly expressing his frustration over the lack of clarity in connection with the Indapur seat in Pune district, senior Congress leader and former minister Harshavardhan Patil on Wednesday switched over to the BJP.
Targeting Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar for his non-commitment over the allocation of Indapur seat in the upcoming Assembly elections, Patil told Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to “keep an eye on my neighbour”.
Patil joined the BJP at an event in south Mumbai in the presence of Fadnavis who said he had been waiting for the former minister to join the Amit Shah-led party for the last five years. Fadnavis also indicated that Patil will be the party’s candidate from Indapur Assembly seat in next month's election.
Not only the Congress, Pawar also has another reason to be worried -- his close aide and former minister Ganesh Naik, along with Patil, also jumped ship to the BJP. Fifty-five corporators of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) also joined the saffron party on Wednesday, thus tilting the scales in the BJP's favour.
The veteran leader’s entry into the BJP paved the way for the BJP to gain control of the NMMC. The Naik family has handled the municipal body for years now.
Naik had been a Pawar confidante for years. When his son, Sandeep Naik, joined the BJP last month, there were murmurs about the reasons over the delay in Ganesh Naik's entry.
“We had been waiting for this moment for five years now,” Fadnavis told the gathering of party workers and media during the function for the induction of new members.
“If Harshavardhan Patil would have taken this decision even two days before the Lok Sabha elections, we would have ousted Sharad Pawar from Baramati. It was our dream to send Supriya Sule home,” Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said. Sule is the NCP MP from Baramati.
The BJP knows that Patil's entry is a huge setback to the Congress. Not only is he a four-time MLA from Indapur, he also holds the record of serving as a minister in each government from 2005 to 2014.
Patil had lost the 2014 Assembly elections by a slender margin to the NCP's Dattatrey Bharne — the Congress and the NCP had contested those elections separately. Patil had supported Sule, ensuring her victory from Baramati this year in the hope that the Pawar-led party would back his candidacy in the upcoming Assembly polls from Indapur, a segment of the Baramati Lok Sabha seat.
Patil served as minister of state for agriculture and marketing in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government from 1995 and 1999. He won the 1995 Assembly election as an independent candidate, then served as minister during the Congress-NCP alliance government from 1999 to 2014. He joined the Congress in 2009 and held the cooperation and parliamentary affairs portfolios.
Patil’s entry will add to the BJP's arsenal against its rival NCP in Indapur, which neighbours Pawar's stronghold of Baramati. When the NCP and the Congress fought the last elections separately, the former’s candidate had defeated Patil.
But Patil’s induction will lead to some internal tussle in the BJP as local leader Manda Mhatre had raised strong objections to his entry. But the BJP leadership feels that the Naik family’s considerable clout in the NMMC will be an advantage for it; however, the party will have to balance the possible advantage with the aspirations of its local leaders.
Speaking after his induction, Naik praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership. "Modi ji has increased India's reputation in the world," he said.
Naik said it was his grudge he "couldn't do justice to the people who loved him during the 15 years" of his stint as a minister in the NCP-Congress government (1999-2014). He also urged Fadnavis to resolve issues pertaining to Navi Mumbai.
"I don't berate the chief ministers of the past. But I am confident about the (good) work Devendra ji has done and will do in future," Naik said, praising the BJP's first chief minister of Maharashtra.
Naik, who cut his teeth in politics with a stint in the Shiv Sena, joined the NCP in 1999 — the year the party was established — following differences with the late Bal Thackeray, the saffron party's founder. A leader representing the Agri community, Naik contested the 2014 Assembly polls from Belapur, but lost to the BJP's Manda Mhatre.
Naik's younger son, Sandeep, joined the BJP on July 31 — along with him, NCP's two other legislators, Shivendrasinh Bhosale and Vaibhav Pichad, had also joined the BJP that day.
Former Kolhapur MP Dhananjay Mahadik also recently switched loyalty to the ruling party.
Earlier, the NCP had lost its Mumbai unit chief Sachin Ahir and MLAs Jaydutta Kshirsagar and Pandurang Barora to the Shiv Sena.
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