Chavan cries 'operation lotus' even as Pawar, Thackeray, Fadnavis meet party MLAs

Speculation was rife that the task of getting MLAs into the BJP's fold has been entrusted to senior leader Radhkrishna Vikhe Patil who had left Congress to join BJP ahead of October Assembly polls. 

Published: 24th November 2019 07:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th November 2019 08:24 PM   |  A+A-

Ashok Chavan

Congress leader and the former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

MUMBAI: Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Sunday accused the BJP of initiating “Operation Lotus” in Maharashtra while expressing fears of poaching of its MLAs. The NCP too is said to be in process of shifting its MLAs to Thane after a couple of officers of the local Intelligence unit were seen inside the Renaissance hotel at Powai where the NCP MLAs have been put in.

Uddhav Thackeray who addressed his party MLAs said that the BJP is on back-foot now and that he is being contacted by the RSS for reconciliation, while Sharad Pawar spent much of his time with his party MLAs trying to read their minds and ensure that they won’t go with Ajit Pawar.

The BJP too conducted a meeting of its MLAs in presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, after which senior party leader Ashish Shelar told the media that the party is confident of proving its majority and that it has around 170 MLAs on its side.

ALSO READ: Governor was misled, Fadnavis must quit as Maharashtra CM, says Ashok Chavan

“Our MLAs are being approached by BJP. They are getting calls. BJP people are booking rooms and staying in the hotel. Our MLAs are contacted by BJP, But let me assure you that our MLAs are intact. Sena, Congress and NCP MLAs are secured and intact,” Chavan said while speaking to media outside the JW Marriot in Juhu, where the Congress MLAs have been lodged.

“The BJP is trying to buy time and their motive is to poach MLAs from other parties,” he said, adding that the “BJP people” are booking rooms in hotels where the MLAs of other parties are lodged.

In a dramatic development that corroborated with Chavan’s allegation, a group of NCP leaders “apprehended” a couple of officers of the local Intelligence unit, when they were seen inside the Renaissance hotel at Powai.

“They were senior officers and had no purpose for visiting the hotel where NCP legislators have been camped,” said senior NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad. Two plainclothesmen were apprehended and their I-cards were checked. One of them said that they were on duty inside the hotel, Awhad told the media.

ALSO READ: What led Ajit Pawar into the arms of the BJP?

While the Congress moved its MLAs to the J W Marriott hotel in Juhu area, the NCP legislators were staying at The Renaissance hotel in Powai, the Shiv Sena MLAs are staying at The Lalit hotel near the international airport here.

While the police said that the security has been tightened outside the three luxury hotels to thwart any poaching attempts, sources said that the private security guards of the three hotels were also not allowing anyone to enter the premises without proper checking of their vehicles and belongings.

Shiv Sena’s trade unions have a robust presence in several of the city’s top hotels and they too are helping all the parties in keeping their flock together, sources said.

Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, meanwhile, addressed a meeting of party MLAs at Hotel Lalit and then he went to meet NCP MLAs at Renaissance. Sharad Pawar too was there and both the leaders spent around three hours together addressing the MLAs, talking to leaders and discussing the strategy with each other, sources said.

While speaking to party MLAs Thackeray said that he was recently contacted by the RSS in an attempt of reconciliation. According to sources he said, “I told them it is too late now. But, the attempt shows how sand is moving below the BJP’s feet.”

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, on the other hand spent much of his day talking to MLAs, sources said. He also had a long discussions with leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde, sources said. The nephew of late BJP late Gopinath Munde was roped in to the NCP by Ajit Pawar in 2012 and is supporting the rebel NCP leader. Sharad Pawar tried to convince him against his opinion of going with the BJP, sources said.

“There is no question of forming an alliance with BJP. NCP has unanimously decided to ally with Shiv Sena & Congress Maharashtra to form the government. Shri Ajit Pawar’s statement is false and misleading in order to create confusion and false perception among the people,” Pawar later said in his tweet.

BJP leader Ashish Shelar said Fadnavis will provide a stable and strong government, after Fadnavis addressed his party MLAs at the BJP’s city office. “We shall prove majority in the state Assembly and we have support of more than 170 MLAs,” Shelar said.

Shelar made it clear that the party had two separate meetings along with the main meeting of MLAs. “The independents and leaders from other smaller parties that have decided to support us were there at these meetings,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources said that the BJP has trusted four turncoat leaders with the “Operation Lotus” in Maharashtra. Narayan Rane, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Ganesh Naik, and Babanrao Pachpute are the four leaders who have been trusted with approaching MLAs from other parties, sources said. All the leaders have previously been the members of either Shiv Sena, Congress or the NCP.

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