Mumbai | In a setback to Congress ahead of Lok Sabha polls, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan resigned from the grand old party on Monday, amid speculation that he may join the BJP.
Chavan's exit from Congress came days after senior Maharashtra Congress leaders Baba Siddique and Milind Deora quit the party.
There was no confirmation either from Chavan or the BJP on reports that the 65-year-old leader will be fielded for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.
Amid the buzz that Chavan will join the BJP, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters, "Aagey aagey dekho hota hai kya" (wait and watch what happens.
Independent MLA from Amravati, Ravi Rana, claimed 10 to 15 MLAs are in touch with Ashok Chavan.
Chavan said the decision to quit the Congress was a personal one, adding he will announce his next course of action in a day or two. “I have not yet made any decision to join BJP,” he added.
In a letter to state Congress president Nana Patole, Chavan said he was resigning as a primary member of the party. He also submitted his resignation as an MLA to Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar.
Chavan, MLA from the Bhokar seat, was also a member of the Congress Working Committee. He was also a former MP from Nanded Lok Sabha constituency.
Speaking to reporters, Chavan said, "I am not going to discuss anything happening in the Congress party on a public forum."
Asked if he would join the BJP, Chavan said, "I haven't taken any decision yet on joining the BJP and don't know BJP's working system."
He also said his decision to quit the Congress is a personal one and he does not want to ascribe any reason to it.
Chavan also refuted claims that the white paper tabled in Parliament prompted him to resign from Congress.
The white paper has mentioned the Adarsh Building scam, pertaining to a housing society in Mumbai, due to which Chavan had to step down as the chief minister of Maharashtra in 2010.
Chavan said he has not contacted any Congress leader or MLA when asked if a chunk of Congressman will follow suit.
"There are many people who love me and support me. They tried to contact me, but I could not respond. The decision I have taken today won't be reversed. I do not know what other MLAs or Congress leaders will think or do. I have not contacted any one of them," he added.
There were speculations for the last few months that Chavan would be quitting Congress, so the news of his resignation did not come as a surprise to the state party leaders.
"Everything need not be told," Chavan said responding to a query on when he decided to quit.
Meanwhile, Rana claimed more such "earthquakes" will take place on February 15 during Amit Shah's visit to the Vidarbha region in east Maharashtra. He also claimed "earthquakes" will also rock the Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar).
He told reporters that Tivsa MLA and former minister Yashomati Thakur of Congress is also in contact with the BJP, a claim she denied.
Reacting to Chavan parting ways with Congress, former CM Prithviraj Chavan said voters will teach a lesson to deserters.
The senior Congress leader also said he was unaware of the compulsion due to which Ashok Chavan left Congress and termed it as an "unfortunate" decision.
Chavan hails from Nanded district in Marathwada region. His father late Shankarrao Chavan was also the chief minister of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole rushed to Delhi, after Ashok Chavan's announcement of resigning from the Congress.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh without naming Ashok Chavan said that an exit by betrayers "opens up vast new opportunities to those whose growth they have always stunted".
"When friends and colleagues leave a political party that has given them much - perhaps much more (than) they deserved - it is always a matter of anguish," he said in a post on X.
"But to those who are vulnerable, THAT Washing Machine will always prove more attractive than ideological commitment or personal loyalties," he added.
Rubbishing speculation that he too will switch sides, opposition leader Vijay Wadettiwar of Congress said he has no plans to quit the party.
"I have been working with Ashok Chavan since 2006 and was twice a minister in his cabinet. He did not discuss anything with me. We do not know the reason. But the way the BJP is breaking parties, people have not liked this, and they will give a befitting reply in this election," he said.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray claimed the BJP is becoming a "Congress Occupied BJP."
He said speculation is rife that Chavan will be given a Rajya Sabha seat.
"When PM Modi thumps his chest saying his party would win 400 seats in Lok Sabha polls, they why is he breaking other parties. With so many Congress leaders being inducted into the BJP, there will be a day when its national president will be from Congress," he claimed.
Thackeray said he felt pity for workers of BJP and RSS as leaders from other parties are being imported.
BJP state chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule claimed there has been a major "unrest" in the Congress party and senior leaders are in contact with the BJP. "You will see more such instances," he added.
State Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, "It seems Congress leader Ashok Chavan was tired of the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and state party president Nana Patole".
Shiv Sena (MP) Sanjay Raut said Ashok Chavan's decision is shocking.
"I believe he is still with Maha Vikas Aghadi. If the son of Shankarrao Chavan, a stalwart who served as Maharashtra CM between 1975 and 1977, quits the Congress, then it is like a son abandoning his mother," Raut told reporters in Mumbai.