Maharashtra Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar on Monday resigned from the party and is set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday. Kolambkar, who is a close aide of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane, is a seven-term Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
Kolambkar, who represents Wadala constituency, was formerly close to the Shiv Sena. He was elected on a Sena ticket five times. However, when Rane withdrew from the Shiv Sena, Kolambkar followed him joined the Congress. Later, even when Rane left Maharashtra and formed his own outfit - the Maharashtra Swabhiman Party, Kolumbkar preferred to stay in the Congress.
According to Mumbai Mirror, Kolambkar got in touch with Fadnavis for the past two years, indicating his entry into the BJP.
The report suggests besides Kolumbkar, Jaikumar Gole, Gopaldas Agarwal and Sunil Kedar are others who are likely to join the BJP.
On Sunday, senior BJP leader and Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan claimed that at least 50 MLAs of the Congress and the NCP are in touch with the ruling party to switch over ahead of the assembly elections, due later this year.
Mahajan's comments came against the backdrop of a string of leaders from Sharad Pawar-led NCP deserting their parent party in recent past.
"Some 50 MLAs of Congress and NCP are in touch with the BJP. Senior NCP leader Chitra Wagh had expressed her desire to join BJP a month back, claiming she had no future left in her parent party. The MLAs are requesting that they wanted to join the BJP ahead of the assembly elections...The Congress is in the shambles and in the next couple of weeks, the NCP will look weaker," Mahajan said.
NCP leaders Sachin Ahir, the Mumbai unit chief of the party and former minister, Chitra Wagh, the women wing president of the party, have quit the NCP. Ahir has already joined the Shiv Sena. NCP MLA Vaibhav Pichad has also expressed his desire to join the BJP.
Mahajan also dismissed Sharad Pawar's allegations that the BJP was misusing government agencies against the leaders of the Congress and the NCP to make them defect.
The minister, believed to be a confidante of Fadnavis, also defended the raids conducted by Income Tax sleuths on NCP leader and former minister Hasan Mushrif, saying the action was legal and not out of any political vengeance.
Meanwhile, sources said that a sizable number of corporators, including Mayor of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation Sandeep Naik, may switch over to the BJP from the NCP.
The politics of Navi Mumbai has traditionally been dominated by a faction led by former excise minister and NCP leader Ganesh Naik.
(With PTI inputs)