Blow to Ashok Chavan, as former close aide joins BJP

Former MLA from Nanded (South) Omprakash Pokarna joined the BJP on a day that the state Congress chief wanted to mark as the death anniversary of ‘acche din’; Pokarna says he joined the saffron party to save Hindus from ‘violent’ AIMIM

On a day that Ashok Chavan had asked his workers to observe as the death anniversary of ‘achhe din’ to highlight the shortcomings of the BJP government at the Centre, the saffron party ended up inflicting a strong blow on the state Congress chief by inducting his one-time trusted aide Omprakash Pokarna.

Omprakash Pokarna (second from left) is welcomed into the BJP fold by CM Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve Patil in the presence of Bhaskar Khatgaonkar (extreme left). Pokarna said the Congress wanted him to appease Muslims
Omprakash Pokarna (second from left) is welcomed into the BJP fold by CM Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve Patil in the presence of Bhaskar Khatgaonkar (extreme left). Pokarna said the Congress wanted him to appease Muslims

Pokarna, who is a former Congress MLA from Nanded (South) told mid-day that he joined the BJP primarily because he wanted to save the Hindus from the ‘violent’ onslaught of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in his hometown. “I couldn’t speak against Muslims when I was in the Congress.

The Congress wanted me to appease Muslims, even though AIMIM was involved in violence. I had asked the Congress government to conduct a CBI inquiry in the murder of three Hindus in my constituency (Nanded) but my request was turned down,” he said yesterday.

Nanded was an entry point for AIMIM in the Maharashtra politics. It won 11 seats in the local civic body three years ago and then used the constituency as a launch pad to spread out to other parts of the state, including Mumbai and Aurangabad, where it has one MLA each.

Pokarna said he hoped his new party would take cognisance of his demand for a CBI probe into the murders. “Narendra Modi ji and CM Devendra Fadnavis ji are my new hope. I would take up the issue of Hindu slaughter with them and ask them to do justice to my Hindu brothers,” he said.

Chavan angle
Pokarna had been a supporter of the Chavan family since the days of Ashok’s father Shankarrao Chavan (who was Maharashtra CM and a Union home minister). He had been Nanded’s mayor for many years before being elected to the Assembly in 2009.

Pokarna was among the few leaders who stood by Chavan when he had to resign from the CM’s post following the Adarsh housing scam and during his tiff with Vilasrao Deshmukh.

However, differences cropped up between the two after Pokarna lost the Nanded (South) seat in Assembly polls last year and intensified after Chavan was made the state Congress chief recently. Chavan’s brother-in-law and former Congress MP from Nanded, Bhaskar Khatgaonkar, who joined the BJP ahead of last year’s Assembly polls, brokered Pokarna’s deal with the saffron party.

While Pokarna refused to comment on his changed relations with the state Congress president, Khatgaonkar, who was present when Pokarna was inducted into the BJP, said that Congress loyalists in Nanded were disillusioned with Chavan.

“We have been with them (the Chavans) since the time of Shankarrao. People like me and Pokarna contributed in making Ashok Chavan a prominent leader. We stood by him when he went into political oblivion. But he has sidelined all such loyalists.”

Khatgaonkar had quit the Congress last August, when Chavan decided to field his wife Ameeta from the Bhokar Assembly seat in Nanded district. Khatgaonkar had vacated his Nanded Lok Sabha seat for Chavan and expected an Assembly nomination from Bhokar. When mid-day called Chavan on his cellphone, his personal assistant answered and said that Chavan would not be available for comment.

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