Maharashtra Assembly Polls: No one to coordinate, plan for the Congress
With senior leaders such as Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan busy campaigning for their own seats, the party’s interests have taken a backseat.
The All India Congress Committee has appointed former home minister Sushilkumar Shinde as chairman of the coordination committee, but he is busy canvassing for daughter Praniti who is fighting from Solapur.
In his defence, Shinde said: “I have had two meetings in Delhi for coordination. We have also set up committees regionwise. It is not necessary that I must coordinate while sitting in office. I am in touch with state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat and AICC general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge on the phone.’’
The Congress has reposed faith in Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Nana Patole, Vishwajeet Kadam, Yashomati Thakur, Vijay Wadettiwar and Naseem Khan, the last of the Mohicans, so to speak, to increase up its seat tally in the Assembly.
On most days, the Mumbai Congress office is manned by S Bhavsar, an office manager, while city Congress president Eknath Gaikwad is busy somewhere else. His daughter Varsha is contesting from Dharavi and the father is focussed on ensuring her victory. In the last few days, senior leaders have been conspicuous by their absence from the Congress office.
Ashok Chavan, a stalwart from Marathwada, is contesting from Bhokar in Nanded. There were 91 candidates against him and he had to persuade many of them to withdraw. It took him five days to whittle down the opposition. “It’s not that we don’t have people for coordination. We have two administrative staffers, Ganesh Patil and Prithviraj Sathe, at Tilak Bhavan in Dadar for that purpose,’’ says Chavan.
Wadettiwar, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, is contesting elections from Brahmapuri in Chandrapur district. Sources in state Congress said that the place is so remote that getting him on the phone is a big issue.
Thorat, who has filed his nomination from Sangamner, is busy with his constituency even though he was in Mumbai for the release of the party manifesto on Monday.
Since there was a lot of discontent within the party, the central leadership decided to appoint five working presidents — Nitin Raut, Yashomati Thakur, Muzzafar Hussain, Basavraj Patil and Vishwajeet Kadam. All of them are contesting the polls and have no time for coordination.
A former chief minister of the party rued the fact that “unlike the Congress party, the BJP has a coordination meeting every day at 11 am”.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, former minister Suresh Shetty and state Congress general secretary Ramesh Shetty managed the control room. This time, the AICC has sent its general secretary Avinash Pande to do that job.
A former minister said that central leaders will start visiting the state from October 12. But there is no clarity on Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s itinerary. She has a dust allergy while Rahul Gandhi is out of the country.