Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil on Friday stayed away from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's poll rally in Ahmednagar, where his son Sujay is the BJP's Lok Sabha candidate.
Speculation was rife that Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, would follow his son into the BJP and share stage with PM Modi at the rally in Ahmednagar, around 325 km from Mumbai.
The senior Vikhe Patil was unavailable for comment, but his close aides rejected suggestions about the Congress leader switching sides and joining the BJP.
They also maintained Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had no role in organising the rally in the western Maharashtra city that will vote on April 23 and asserted Sujay Vikhe Patil is capable of handling his election-related issues.
"Sujay may be contesting elections for the first time. But, he is not new to politics. For the last 7-8 years, he was managing his father's assembly constituency Shirdi," said a close aide of Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
"Sujay's contribution in making the Congress the single largest party in the Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad cannot be overlooked. He doesn't require his father to manage his Lok Sabha elections. It is not true that Vikhe Patil was instrumental in organising Mr Modi's rally today," he said.
The aide said Sujay Vikhe Patil kept away from Ahmednagar city politics and did not work for the party during the municipal corporation elections due to differences with the local Congress unit president.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has already said he would not campaign for the NCP nominee in Ahmednagar.
The NCP has claimed the senior Vikhe Patil is campaigning for the BJP in Ahmednagar and asked the Congress to take action against him.
The Congress has 42 MLAs and the NCP 41 in the 288- member assembly. Any disciplinary action against Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil would mean the Congress losing the Leader of the Opposition post.
Two Congress MLAs - Nitesh Rane and Kalidas Kolambkar - are their way out. While there is speculation that Kolambkar may join the BJP, Rane is likely to contest the Assembly polls scheduled later this year, under the banner of his father Narayan Rane's outfit, the Maharashtra Swambhiman Paksh.
Addressing the rally, Union minister Ramdas Athawale said, "I want to tell the youth that they should join the army and after spending 15 years there, join my party."
Speaking at the rally, sitting BJP MP Dilip Gandhi, in whose place Sujay Vikhe Patil has been fielded by the party, sought to tell the crowd about the development work he did in the constituency during the last five years, but was asked to cut short his speech.
A visibly irritated Dilip Gandhi continued the speech, and expressed his displeasure over not being allowed to speak at length.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured Dilip Gandhi that the party will stand with him as well.
"Sujay's entry in BJP was a surgical strike against the Congress," Mr Fadnavis said.
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