BJP MP Sanjay Kakade set to join Congress
Pune – Ending weeks of speculation, Sanjay Kakade, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajya Sabha MP on Sunday finally announced that he would soon be joining Congress.Mr. Kakade, a prominent Pune-based realtor, had openly expressed his desire to contest from the Pune Lok Sabha constituency on several occasions in the recent past.“Given the changed circumstances in the country, I have decided to join the Congress. If the top leadership gives me a ticket, I will fight the election to the best of my ability. If not, I will abide by Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s decision and am willing to wholeheartedly perform whatever task is entrusted to me,” said Mr. Kakade.However, sources within the Congress said that while the BJP leader was welcome to join the party, there was no guarantee that he would be given a ticket. Mr. Kakade’s decision to join the Congress party comes in the face of stout opposition within the BJP to give him a ticket for contesting the Pune seat.However, the BJP MP’s entry is not likely to be taken too kindly by Congress loyalists in Pune, most of whom are opposed to Mr. Kakade’s induction in the party.The MP was earlier with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) before being elected as an independent candidate to the Upper House and later joining the BJP. A known wheeler-dealer, Mr. Kakade is believed to have played a vital role in engineering BJP’s victory in the Pune civic polls in February 2017. “The Congress is accommodative of all religions and communities and has a rich heritage. Hence, I have decided to enter the Congress fold,” Mr. Kakade said, adding that the move would not affect his cordial relationship with Mahasrashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. His disenchantment with the BJP stemmed from the allegedly ‘shoddy’ treatment meted out to him by Pune Guardian Minister Girish Bapat and BJP State president Raosaheb Danve.“It will be good to take on Girish Bapat. I am confident of polling 50,000 votes in Bapat’s Assembly constituency itself,” claimed Mr. Kakade. In 2017, Mr. Bapat had publicly censured Mr. Kakade’s induction of alleged criminals within the party before the civic polls.In the same year in December, Mr. Kakade had created a flutter after he predicted a dismal showing by the BJP in the results to the Gujarat election. He was later forced to eat his words after the party emerged victorious in the Gujarat Assembly poll. “I had not taken into account the impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal ‘charisma’,” Mr. Kakade had said at the time.While one strand of opinion views Mr. Kakade’s exit as a possible setback to the BJP, the rebel MP’s exit is viewed with a sigh of relief by present Pune MP Anil Shirole and Minister Girish Bapat, who along with Mr. Kakade, were frontrunners for the candidacy of the Pune seat.Speculation about Mr. Kakade’s imminent exit from the BJP gathered momentum after the MP met with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in December last year just after the BJP’s poll debacle in five states. Likewise, he also held parleys with senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar last month in yet another indication of his growing disaffection with the BJP.