MUMBAI, February 5: The Congress suffered a major setback on Thursday when Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, former president of the Sholapur zilla parishad and brother of Congress heavyweight Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
With the entry of Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, who hails from the politically influential Mohite-Patil family from Akluj-Malshiraj area in Sholapur district, the BJP has received a shot in the arm to make a further dent in the Congress stronghold--western Maharashtra. The BJP has already wooed the scion of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Udayanraje Bhosale, from Satara district, while it won parliamentary seats in Sholapur and Kopargaon in the 1996 elections.
Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, who heads the Shankar cooperative sugar factory and 25 other cooperative organisations from Akluj-Malshiraj area, was officially accommodated in the BJP fold by deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde at the party headquarters here.
Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil told The Financial Expressfrom Akluj that he would continue to work for the Congress and ruled out the possibility of joining the BJP.
The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) has ruled out the possibility of any major impact on the party's prospects in Sholapur district in the ensuing elections.
It has fielded Rajya Sabha member Sushilkumar Shinde from Sholapur and former MP Sandipan Thorat from Pandharpur constituency. MPCC spokesman Vasant Chavan assailed Pratapsinh's decision to quit the party especially when it was going through rough times.
He announced that the former BJP MP from Nagpur, Banwarilal Purohit, who was denied a ticket, joined the Congress on Thursdayin the presence of MPCC president Ranjit Deshmukh and Rajya Sabha member NKP Salve.
Munde, who was instrumental in wooing the "big catch", told reporters that the entry of Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil has brightened the chances of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance candidates in Sholapur, Pandharpur and Osmanabad constituencies.
"We will now win these seats asPratapsinh Mohite-Patil has agreed to actively participate in the election campaign of alliance candidates with his followers," he added. Munde said that Pratapsinh had decided to quit the Congress in view of the ongoing factionalism and injustice meted out against him and his family despite his political clout in the district. During the last elections to the zilla parishad, state council, assembly and Lok Sabha, the Congress distributed tickets unilaterally without taking the Mohite-Patils into confidence.
"It is ironical that while Mohite-Patil had the strength, the candidates were dictated by Baramati (Baramati is home town of Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar)," Munde said.
Pratapsinh said he had no regrets about leaving the Congress.
"I am confident that at least 17 members of the Sholapur zilla parishad and those who have confidence in my leadership will join the BJP," he said, adding the followers of his brother and Congress MLA from Malshiraj Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil would not join the bandwagon.Pratapsinh alleged he was denied a party ticket in the recently held state council elections.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.