Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ visit to Pandharpur to seek blessings of Lord Vitthal turned into a political event as several Opposition MLAs made a beeline to meet him. The visit assumed significance as reports suggest that several legislators from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are willing to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Vidhan Sabha election.
Interestingly, it was Siddharam Mhetre and Bharat Bhalke, both Congress MLAs, who welcomed Mr Fadnavis in Solapur before he reached Pandharpur. With the Assembly election just around the corner, the chief minister also made it a point to attend events organised by the BJP as well as Opposition parties. After performing puja at the famous Vitthal temple, he attended an event organised by BJP legislator Prashant Paricharak, where the presence of NCP MLA Baban Shinde raised eyebrows.
Mr Fadnavis also visited Mr Bhalke’s residence, where he met some MLAs who are planning to join the saffron party ahead of polls. These MLAs were accompanied by housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who recently quit Congress and joined the BJP.
Mr Bhalke's name figures prominently in the list of Opposition MLAs expected to switch sides in the coming days. However, Mr Bhalke denied such reports and dubbed the chief minister’s visit as a personal visit. "The political discussions are made secretly, not so openly," he argued.
According to sources, Opposition MLAs including Jaykumar Gore and Abdul Sattar are likely to join the BJP. Another Congress MLA, Kalidas Kolambkar, who openly campaigned for the Shiv Sena candidate in Lok Sabha election is also likely to join the BJP.
“Eight to 10 Congress MLAs are in touch with the BJP. We are disappointed with the Congress leadership in Maharashtra,” Mr Sattar had earlier said....