Mumbai: Congress leader and former Maharashtra Minister Harshavardhan Patil joined the BJP on Wednesday. Patil, 56, joined the saffron party at an event in south Mumbai in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said he had been waiting for Patil to cross over for the last five years.
Fadnavis also indicated that Harshavardhan Patil will be the BJP’s candidate from Indapur Assembly seat in Pune district in the elections next month. Patil’s exit is the second major blow to the Congress in the state. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, another senior leader, left the party after the Lok Sabha polls and became a cabinet minister in the Fadnavis government. Patil, four-time MLA from Indapur, had lost the 2014 Assembly election by a slender margin to the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Dattatrey Bharne. The Congress and NCP had contested the 2014 elections separately.
Patil supported Supriya Sule, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter, when she contested the Lok Sabha election from Baramati this year in the hope that the NCP would cede the Indapur seat to the Congress in the coming Assembly polls. However, NCP leader Ajit Pawar stated later that decision on Indapur seat had not been taken.
On Wednesday, Harshavardhan Patil was accompanied by his daughter Ankita, a member of the Pune Zilla Parishad, and son Rajvardhan as he joined the BJP. Patil won from Indapur assembly seat in 1995 as an independent and served as a minister of state for agriculture in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government during 1995-99. He won the next two elections as independent but backed the Congress-NCP alliance government. In 2009, he contested and won on Congress ticket. All through he was a minister.
Speaking after joining the BJP, Patil said, in a veiled attack on the NCP leadership, that his former constituency — which is adjacent to Baramati, Sharad Pawar’s bastion, had faced injustice. “I hope you (Fadnavis) will support us in our fight against the injustice,” he said. “One can choose one’s friends and foes but not neighbour. There are some issues with our neighbours which need to be addressed,” he said, seeking the chief minister’s intervention for increasing water supply to Indapur tehsil.
“I come from a certain (political) culture, which necessitates protection of people’s interests. If I want to maintain that, I needed to be with the BJP,” Harshavardhan Patil said. The Congress had received two jolts on Tuesday when actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar and senior Mumbai Congress leader Kripashankar Singh resigned from the party.
NCP leader Ranajagjitsinha Patil, who is related to party president Sharad Pawar, on 31 August 2019 had confirmed that he was joining the ruling BJP.
On 14 June 2019, when Maharashtra Assembly poll was just a few months away, rebellion was already brewing within the Congress party as senior party Leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil resigned from the party after being upset with the state Congress leadership.