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Cong loyalists want their share

A group of Congressmen in Maharashtra have got together to form a “loyalists club’’ to act as a pressure group to ensure that loyalists are not flung by the wayside this election.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2009 00:05 IST
Sujata Anandan

They’ve had enough, and are now saying as much.

A group of Congressmen in Maharashtra have got together to form a “loyalists club’’ to act as a pressure group to ensure that loyalists are not flung by the wayside this election. Led by people like Jaiprakash Chhajed, who heads a trade union wing of the party, the group meet in secret on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, the members will leave for New Delhi to meet party president Sonia Gandhi and explain to her the need for such a group. They also want Sonia’s blessings in the form of a rally in Mumbai this month-end, depending on her schedule. The meet will be a loyalist-only affair.

“For years, loyalists have delivered whatever the party has asked for. Even now it is we who work and ensure an election victory. Then why should the fruits of our labour be eaten up by people like Narayan Rane and Sharad Pawar,’’ Chhajed told HT.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil, MLCs Ulhas Pawar and Sharad Ranpise and Pune Congress chief Mohan Joshi are among the members. All are Pune-centric and many owe allegiance to former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, though he feigns ignorance about the group’s activities. But as Chhajed said, “This is not about chief ministers or former chief ministers. We have
nothing against anybody who is not a loyalist.’’ And both Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan are.

But clearly Rane and Pawar aren’t. “After all the venom they spewed against Sonia Gandhi, there is still talk of giving them what they want. That shouldn’t happen.’’

“Every time the claims of loyalists have been ignored, the party has fallen flat on its face,” said Gadgil. “The party is being destroyed by turncoats who come and go at will,” said Ulhas Pawar, adding they would apprise the leadership of “danger” of ignoring loyalists. “Indira Gandhi never did this and that is why the party survived. But if we continue with the trend of relying on outsiders, the Congress will soon be decimated.’’

The group will try and ensure that more tickets are given to old party hands, and hopes to rope in CM Ashok Chavan. The group wants to take the campaign to other parts of the country. “We relied too much on Vaghela (Shankersinh) and Keshubhai (Patel) in Gujarat and Siddharamaiah and other BJP defectors in Karnataka and were decimated. The same should not happen in Maharashtra,’’ said Pawar. “We’ll not bargain, blackmail or quit the party, but we will not be ignored any more,’’ said Gadgil.