BJP’s washing machine has been switched on in Maharashtra, says Congress as ally NCP undergoes a split

Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi call up Sharad Pawar to extend support as Opposition leaders look to salvage MVA

July 02, 2023 08:36 pm | Updated 11:36 pm IST - New Delhi

 Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi. File

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi. File | Photo Credit: ANI

Alleging that a number of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders who joined the BJP on Sunday are facing “serious corruption charges”, the Congress took a dig at BJP by stating that its “washing machine” is in operation.

Maharashtra Congress Twitter handle tweeted an old video of Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis saying NCP’s Ajit Pawar, now also a Deputy Chief Minister in the Eknath Shinde-led government, will be in jail once the BJP comes back to power.

In a show of solidarity, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chief Rahul Gandhi spoke to NCP president Sharad Pawar on phone to extend support. Sonia Gandhi also spoke to Mr. Sharad Pawar.

“In Geometry, it’s QED [quod erat demonstrandum]. In Indian politics, it’s ED,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu, referring to allegations that several of those who joined the BJP were questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

“Clearly the BJP’s ‘washing machine’ has resumed its operations. A number of new entrants into the BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra today had been facing serious corruption charges with ED, CBI and Income Tax authorities after them. Now they have all got a clean chit,” Mr. Ramesh added in a separate tweet.

Though he didn’t name anyone, all the top three NCP leaders — junior Pawar, Praful Patel and Chagan Bhujbal — are facing allegations of corruption and money laundering in separate cases and have been questioned by the ED.

“This is not a legitimately elected government, but an ED-facilitated power grab. The Maharashtra government is a product of corruption and sin,” tweeted Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, adding, “The people have very well identified the traitors, corrupt and compromised leaders of Maharashtra and each of them will be taught the lessons of their lifetime in the next election”.

While the NCP split is a setback to the Opposition’s unity project in the immediate run, the BJP’s main objective would be to repeat its 2019 Lok Sabha performance in which the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had won 41 out of 48 seats from the State.

After the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena parted ways and formed the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in November 2019 with the Congress and the NCP, the changed political equations in Maharashtra had become a cause of concern for the BJP.

Though both Sena and NCP have been considerably weakened by vertical splits now, the breakaway factions are yet to be tested electorally.

While the BJP would hope to make inroads into the voter bases of Sena and NCP, Opposition parties are rallying around an embattled Sharad Pawar in an attempt to salvage the MVA.

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