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Ashok Chavan: BJP Makes Peace With Another Scam As Congress Battles Series of Exits

In the decade and half since the former Congress leader was named in the scam, the BJP has raked this issue up from time to time. It even found mention in its government's recent 'white paper'.
Ashok Chavan. Photo: X/@AshokChavanINC

Mumbai: A day after quitting Congress, Ashok Chavan, a former chief minister of Maharashtra, has now announced his entry into the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Appearing to underplay his exit from the Congress – a party which his family has been associated with for over five decades – Chavan said that he would not like to “get into a blame game” and did not give a reason for his exit, instead saying he has now begun a new political journey with the BJP.

Chavan is 65.

Along with him, another Congress leader – a former member of the legislative council – from Nanded, Amar Rajurkar, also joined the BJP. Rajurkar was also present at a press conference in Mumbai which was jointly addressed by Chavan and deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.

Fadnavis announced that many other Congress leaders are in touch with the BJP.

A dormant scam

Chavan, who was the chief minister of Maharashtra for two short stints between 2008 and 2010, had to abruptly step down following allegations of his involvement in the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society scam.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, investigating the case, had named him as one of the primary beneficiaries of a 31-storey building which was originally built for 1999 Kargil war heroes and fallen soldiers’ war widows.

The central agency had claimed that due to the violation of several rules, three of Chavan’s relatives secured flats in this upmarket housing property in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade.

It has been over a decade and a half since Chavan was named in the scam. The case has since remained dormant, with some of the primary accused of the case having died in the meantime.

The BJP, however, has raked this issue up from time to time.

In 2014, as the BJP came to power, Adarsh grew into one of the primary poll planks for the party. And as recently as last week, when the Union finance ministry released its “white paper” on the Indian economy, the Adarsh scam once again found a mention under the section “pervasive corruption”.

Also read: Centre Tables White Paper on 10 Years of UPA, Hours After Congress’s Black Paper on Modi Govt’s Failures

Many Congress leaders, including Jairam Ramesh, have attributed Chavan’s exit from the party to the pending trial in the case. Chavan, at a press conference in Mumbai soon after joining the BJP, called the Adarsh scam a “political accident”. He denied any links between the scam and to his decision of quitting the Congress party.

A series of exits

Chavan is the third big name from the Congress, after Milind Deora and Baba Siddique, to exit the party ahead of the Lok Sabha election. While Deora went with the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena, Siddique hopped onto the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party. Reacting to Chavan’s entry into BJP, Siddique said that this should come as a “wake up call” for the Congress.

Another senior Congress leader, Sanjay Nirupam, blamed the senior Congress leadership for Chavan’s exit.

Chavan’s possible move to the BJP had been known for a while now. Nirupam, without mentioning any names, claimed that Chavan quit the party only because he was troubled by one particular party functionary. It is anybody’s guess that Nirupam was speaking about Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole.

In fact, all party leaders who spoke in favour of Chavan have blamed Patole for his style of running the party. Patole, who crossed over from the BJP to the Congress, is known to have a strained relationship with most Congress leaders in the state.

Reacting to Chavan’s exit, Patole said on Monday (February 12): “The Congress has given a lot to many leaders. It is unfortunate that today, when the party is fighting to save democracy and the constitution, leaders who have got everything from it are quitting the party and its ideology. Who is going where, for what? The public is watching.”

To this, Chavan at a press conference said, “While it is true that the Congress has given a lot to me, it is also a fact that I have given a lot to the Congress party. This truth can’t be denied.”

Calling Chavan’s exit from the party “unfortunate”, Maharashtra Congress in-charge Ramesh Chennithala at a press conference in Mumbai said that the party gave him enough opportunities and built his career. “And when it was time to fight for the party, he [Chavan] decided to run away.”

Chennithala also mentioned that until a day before Chavan exited the Congress party, he was present at all party meetings.

“In fact, Chavan even met party chief Mallikarjun Kharge just a few days ago. If Chavan had issued with the party functioning, he should have simply voiced it. A leader as senior as Chavan is expected to voice his opinion freely. Leaders have that responsibility,” Chennithala added.

He also pointed to the fact that Chavan didn’t give a single reason for his exit. “I heard him [Chavan] speak at the press conference. He had no grounds to provide. If it is out of fear of the CBI and ED, what can we say?”

Patole, who was also at the press conference, urged Chavan to return to the party. “Still, nothing has gone bad between him and the party leaders, I urge Chavan to return to the party,” he said.

In June last year, Chavan had met Kharge and sought changes within the party to ensure better results in the 2024 election. Following this, he was inducted in the Congress Working Committee.

Another senior leader, Balasaheb Thorat, had to vacate his post to make way for Chavan.

From December 2023, Chavan was involved in the seat-sharing talks for Maharashtra within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). Patole said Chavan has always liked to be at the forefront and hold the position of power.

“I have known him for long. He has always liked to be a leader. But he should know that in the BJP, he would get no such opportunity. He will have to be in the backseat from now on.” Patole claimed.

Chavan is also the third prominent Maratha leader to join hands with the BJP. Before him, Shinde and Ajit Pawar had both jumped boats.

The BJP has tried hard to woo the Maratha community that is both numerically and politically dominant in the state, which has also meant alienation of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the party.

It is important to note that the prominent leader from the OBC community, Chhagan Bhujbal, who had left the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to join Ajit Pawar, is openly expressing his discontent with the BJP. He even rendered his resignation, which the coalition government has not acted upon.

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