Close on the heels of former Union ministers Vasant Sathe and N K P Salve, former Maharashtra chief minister Abdul Rahman Antulay is also set to walk out of the Congress.
Antulay, the only Muslim politician to be chief minister of the state so far, is likely to join the Shiv Sena, a source in his home district Raigad said.
Antulay is learnt to have had a series of meetings with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray at his residence in Bandra, northwest Mumbai, to prepare the ground for his defection.
But when contacted in New Delhi, he refused to confirm or deny this.
The former member of Parliament from Kulaba in Raigad district was a prominent leader of the Congress until about a year ago, when he quit as chairman of the minority cell of the All-India Congress Committee. Since then he has been in a limbo.
Asked why he was quitting as head of the minority cell, Antulay had said that the post was merely decorative and the cell was toothless.
The veteran Congress politician, who had quit as chief minister in 1982 in the wake of the cement scandal and fought a long and bitter court battle to clear his name, is disillusioned with the functioning of the party, especially after the Gujarat riots of 2002, and has made no secret about it. He has publicly expressed his displeasure that no Congressman came out on the streets to prevent the riots that broke out in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage.
The Shiv Sena is wooing Antulay for two reasons. One, he has always had cordial relations with Bal Thackeray. Two, the party believes that Antulay is the only person who can defeat Peasants and Workers Party strongman Ramsheth Thakur, who represents Kulaba in the Lok Sabha.
Antulay had never lost an election from his home constituency until 1998, when he was beaten by Ramesh Thakur of the PWP. Thereafter, in 1999, he shifted to Aurangabad, but lost again, this time to Chandrakant Khaire of the Shiv Sena.