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The Hindu
The Hindu
Shoumojit Banerjee

Sharad Pawar loyalist Jayant Patil squelches talk of defecting

Senior Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar faction) leader Jayant Patil on February 19 quashed speculation that he was planning to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Rumours were rife that Mr. Patil, considered one of Sharad Pawar’s staunchest aides, was joining the BJP following senior Congressman Ashok Chavan’s recent defection.

Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Mr. Patil, a seven-term MLA from the Walwa-Islampur constituency in Sangli district, stressed that he had not received any offer from the BJP nor had any BJP leader contacted him.

“No BJP has leader has contacted me. I am in touch with all our MLAs. Everyone is in their place and there is no question of anyone going anywhere,” said Mr. Patil.

Unbeaten since 1990

A prominent leader from western Maharashtra, Mr. Patil, who has remained unbeaten in his constituency since 1990, expressed surprise at suggestions that he allegedly met the BJP top brass in Delhi recently.

“I am surprised why such news keeps recurring. Our party, despite being broken, is being rebuilt with the support of Maharashtra’s youth,” he said.

Mr. Patil, who has held several important portfolios in the State cabinet in the past, wryly said that the fact that his name kept surfacing meant that the BJP though he was prominent enough.

Likewise, Mr. Patil’s colleague, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, too, said the very fact that the names of the remaining Sharad Pawar-led NCP legislators were being spoken of as potential defectors only meant that the BJP, with all its poaching, “still felt insecure.”

BJP State President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, while denying that he had met Mr. Patil and clarifying that the latter had not contacted the BJP, nonetheless said that the BJP would take any leader who wanted to join the saffron party.

“PM Modi has provided a guarantee of development. Several leaders are coming forward to support the PM’s Atmanirbhar mission. We will welcome anyone who wishes to work with us,” he said.

In August last year, after Ajit Pawar split his uncle, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, there were rumours that Mr. Patil had met Home Minister Amit Shah in Pune during the latter’s visit to the city.

There were reports that Mr. Patil apparently met with Mr. Shah at Pune’s J.W. Marriott hotel along with other Sharad Pawar faction MLAs like Prajakt Tanpure and Suman Patil and that the meeting was reportedly mediated by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar himself. 

Mr. Patil, who was the NCP’s state president prior to Ajit Pawar’s rebellion in July last year, has always been considered close to Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule and a political rival to Ajit Pawar within the undivided NCP.

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