Is the Congress finally shifting gears in Maharashtra ahead of the 2014 polls? | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Is the Congress finally shifting gears in Maharashtra ahead of the 2014 polls?

Behind the curtain, activities have gained momentum in the ruling Congress as the party leadership is finally looking at options to make the party unit in Maharashtra combat-ready for the 2014 general and assembly elections. Shailesh Gaikwad reports.

mumbai Updated: Sep 16, 2012 00:29 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad

Behind the curtain, activities have gained momentum in the ruling Congress as the party leadership is finally looking at options to make the party unit in Maharashtra combat-ready for the 2014 general and assembly elections.

As there were indications from the top brass that a new chief minister is a possibility, contender began hectic lobbying knowing this could be their last chance before the next assembly elections. At least half a dozen contender or their mentors have begun working out permutations and combinations to grab the chair.

So, what exactly is happening in the Congress?

In the current political situation, Maharashtra has become an important state for the Congress, say senior party leaders. It is one of the key states where the party is in power and has hopes of retaining the same. The state has 48 seats and winning most of them would be crucial in the next general elections.

"Maharashtra has emerged as a key state for the Congress in its larger gameplan for 2014, which means the party will have to ensure the local leadership is strong enough to deliver more Lok Sabha seats and retain power in the assembly polls without letting the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) become bigger than it," said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar. "The decision whether to continue with the same leadership (Chavan) or pick a new leader is guided by these calculations."

On one hand, the NCP is expanding aggressively. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar's agenda is to win 80 to 100 assembly seats in 2014 and stake claim on chief ministership. On the other hand, the possibility of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena joining hands with Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has posed an equally bigger challenge to the Congress. "Chavan surely did lot of good things like reining in greedy builders and trying to provide clean administration. However, there has been little impact on the ground as far as political dividend is concerned," said a senior Congress minister.

The party top brass will have to drop some ministers and bring in fresh faces. It will also have to pick new presidents for party's state and city units. The party is expected to fill two or three ministerial berths in Central government from Maharashtra.