Mumbai, Feb. 13 (IANS) Decades old habits die hard. In an unintentional slip of tongue, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who joined the BJP on Tuesday after jumping ship from the Congress, inadvertently addressed BJP’s Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar as ‘Mumbai Congress President’.
Deputy CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, seated beside him, immediately corrected him that “its BJP President” as Chavan sportingly repeated the correct version and admitted his error, even as the gathering momentarily seemed rattled by his utterance.
Fadnavis, by then laughing, commented that “it’s a 50-year old habit” and Chavan, obviously feeling sheepish and embarrassed, grinned, nodded in agreement and reminded the gathering that “this is my first press conference at the BJP office”.
As the sombre atmosphere suddenly turned jovial, there were guffaws at the gaffe from the dignitaries on the dais and the audience, plus the horde of mediapersons who recorded Chavan’s political faux pas for posterity.
“Please pardon me… I have just joined the BJP after 38 years in the Congress and this is my first press conference in the BJP office, please understand,” Chavan said in a pleading tone.
But soon all was forgotten, and the innocent blunder seemed to have strengthened his camaraderie among old friends in the new party having a different ideology.
Chavan, 66, joined the BJP in a high-profile event in the presence of the party’s state unit President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Fadnavis, Ashish Shelar and other senior colleagues, promising to “launch a new chapter in public life”.
However, hours later, an unforgiving Congress unleashed a verbal assault on Chavan, labelling him a as a “coward, who backstabbed the party which gave him so much in life, and fled the field” at a crucial period with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner.
Top Congress leaders, including AICC General Secretary Ramesh Chennithala, state unit chief Nana Patole, Congress Legislature Party leader Balasaheb Thorat and leader of opposition (Assembly) Vijay Wadettiwar, even questioned if Chavan got scared of the central investigating agencies for his abrupt decision that apparently threw the entire Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) into a disarray.
The bitter outbursts notwithstanding, Fadnavis warmly described Chavan as a “leader of national stature”, guaranteeing that he would be assigned responsibilities befitting his experience and seniority, probably starting with a Rajya Sabha nomination for the biennial elections this month, and possibly some more plum posts in the future.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)