- Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is said to be on his way to the BJP
- The buzz is that around 10 lawmakers are likely to follow him
- The issue of his Lok Sabha ticket caused Mr Patil's rift with Congress
Veteran Maharashtra leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, said to be on his way to the BJP, formally quit the Congress today. The buzz is that around 10 lawmakers are likely to follow him, in view of the party's abysmal performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Though the Congress has dismissed the possibility, such a development may prove a huge setback for the party ahead of the assembly elections in the state that will be held in November.
Sources said Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has been promised a cabinet berth by the BJP. Mr Patil's son, Sujay Vikhe Patil has already crossed over to the BJP and won the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat in the recently concluded elections.
It was the issue of his Lok Sabha ticket that caused Mr Patil's rift with the Congress and led to his quitting the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly in April, in the middle of the elections.
Though Mr Patil wanted the Ahmednagar seat for his son, it went to Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party under the alliance agreement, that will continue for the assembly elections.
Mr Pawar and Mr Vikhe Patil share a history of animosity. When his son was given a BJP ticket from Ahmednagar, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil was seen campaigning against the NCP candidate, making it clear that he was on his way out of the Congress.
"I didn't even campaign for the party during Lok Sabha elections. I don't doubt the High Command, they had given me an opportunity by making me the Leader of Opposition. I tried to do good work but situation made me resign," Mr Patil was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The Congress has said they do not expect any other leader to defect to the BJP.
Maharashtra State Congress Committee President Ashok Chavan told NDTV that there are some disgruntled lawmakers who had been in touch with Mr Patil, but they were not quitting the party at this point.
"I have spoken to some MLAs who were unhappy. They say they are not quitting the Congress," Mr Chavan told NDTV.
The party's expelled leader Abdul Sattar however, told reporters that eight to 10 Congress legislators are in touch with the BJP.
"Disappointment with the Congress leadership in the state and their way of functioning are the reason behind our decision. The state leadership is destroying the party here," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The Congress managed to win only one of Maharashtra's 48 Lok Sabha seats, compared to the 41 won by the BJP-Shiv-Sena combine.