MUMBAI: Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday made his political move by joining the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Mumbai, just a day after parting ways with the Congress.
The 65-year-old Chavan was warmly welcomed into the BJP fold at the party's Mumbai office in the presence of key figures, including Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Regarding his new phase in his political career, Chavan, who spent nearly four decades in Congress, said today signifies the commencement of his fresh political journey.
Son of the former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Union Home Minister S B Chavan, his choice to align with the BJP emerges amidst speculation that he might be given the Rajya Sabha nomination.
When asked about any communication from senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Chavan chose to evade a direct response.
Addressing concerns raised by Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut regarding the Adarsh scam, Chavan defended himself, stating, "The Bombay High Court's decision favoured me. I view it as a political mishap. Although certain agencies have contested the court's ruling, I have endured enough and consider it a non-issue now."
Former Chief Minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray has also raked up the Adarsh housing scam to target Chavan and said on Monday that if the BJP sends him to the Rajya Sabha, it will amount to disrespecting martyred soldiers.
Thackeray on Tuesday again took a jibe at Chavan and said that instead of going to the BJP, he should have gone and met farmers in Marathwada, who have been affected by the unseasonal rainfall and hailstorm.
Addressing a public rally in Sonai in Ahmednagar district, Thackeray took a potshot at Chavan and said that the Adarsh scam was forgotten but Chavan's move has brought it back into the limelight.
His involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, where a high-rise structure was allegedly erected on disputed land without due approval, has been a contentious period in his political narrative.
Despite speculations linking the scandal to his exit from Congress, Chavan maintains that his decision was self-directed and not influenced by past controversies.
He said he had made a new beginning in his life.
"In the last 38 years of my political life, starting a new journey. I would like to do some good work and go ahead with progressive thoughts. Politics is a way of service to society. Some people have criticised my decision. I will not make any personal remarks against anyone," he said.
He emphasised his commitment to a proactive and constructive approach towards development, referencing past collaborations with Fadnavis during their respective tenures juxtaposed as Chief Minister and opposition leader.
He pledged to bolster the BJP's presence in Maharashtra, citing his dedication to enhancing the party's electoral prospects.
Reflecting on his decision to switch allegiances, Chavan highlighted his alignment with the inclusive ethos of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" propagated by PM Modi and affirmed his intent to abide by the party's directives and contribute positively to the national growth trajectory.
When asked about whether more people from the Congress could join the BJP, he said, "I have not made any calls to other Congress leaders. BJP leaders, like Fadnavis, will take that decision. I have only joined the party today."
Queried about him attending a party meeting on Sunday and announcing his resignation the next day, Chavan said, "I was thinking about it for a long time. I wanted to be a part of nation-building. It was not an easy decision. I had to think a lot about it. The decision is taken in the interest of Maharashtra, my own district and the nation. If some good things are taking place, I should be a part of it."
"It is true that Congress did a lot of things for me and gave me several opportunities, but nobody can deny that I have also done a lot for the party. It is unfair to be critical of me," he said.
On the farmers' 'Delhi Chalo' march, Chavan said it was true that the cultivators were facing some issues.
"But their issues will be addressed for sure. The government wants to stop farmers' suicides. The prime minister is capable, and he can make other leaders, like the agriculture minister, to find solutions," he said.
Fadnavis commended Chavan's entry into the BJP, recognising his extensive political experience and anticipated contribution towards fortifying the ruling coalition.
Welcoming him, Fadnavis said, "Many leaders in the country have arrived to an opinion of joining the BJP as the country is progressing under the leadership of the Prime Minister. He (Chavan) told us that he is not keen on any post in the party, I want to contribute to the growth of the country."
Chavan was a chief minister of Maharashtra twice and his role in the BJP will be decided after discussing it with the central leaders, he said.
"Chavan's stature is of national level and hence decisions regarding his new responsibilities will be finalised after discussions with the central leadership," he said.
"I want to charge the Congress that they cannot keep their leaders with them. The internal environment in the Congress is chaotic. Some of them start opposing the national issues while criticising the BJP. They need to do some introspection," Fadnavis said.
Chavan's move follows the recent departures of senior Maharashtra Congress figures Baba Siddique and Milind Deora, signaling a shift in the state's political landscape.
The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said that Chavan's move to the BJP was expected but expressed disappointment that leaders capable of challenging the BJP are yielding to its influence.
Party spokesperson Clyde Crasto suggested that Chavan's decision is another instance of the BJP leveraging pressure on individuals facing legal issues to secure their allegiance.