Maharashtra Congress in crisis with Mumbai, state chiefs’ resignations
Barely three months before the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the state Congress unit is staring at a leadership crisis.
On Sunday, Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora resigned from his position to express support to party president Rahul Gandhi, who stepped down taking responsibility for the debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. His resignation comes days after state Congress president Ashok Chavan resigned from his post citing the same reason.
With Deora vacating the top position, organisational set-up of the Congress in Mumbai and Maharashtra has become leaderless. The party leadership is yet to decide on the name of the new state Congress president, following Chavan’s resignation. Political experts believe the countrywide movement demanding Gandhi continue to lead will further impact the party’s performance in the upcoming polls, as it has lost the opportunity to reorganize itself after the Lok Sabha elections.
“If the top leadership doesn’t take a decision quickly, it will create further issues for the party,” said a senior leader, wishing not to be named.
The party is yet to finalise its strategy for the Assembly elections that are due in September-October. The seat-sharing talks have not even started as there is no state unit head to take a call on which seats should be contested and which should be left for the allies, even though its allies, including Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), want to complete seat-sharing talks well in advance. “The Assembly elections are expected to be held in October and we have no one to decide the party’s strategy for the polls. No one is authorized to talk to allies such as NCP and others,” said a party functionary, requesting anonymity.
According to party leaders, the Congress is contemplating appointing four executive presidents along with a state president in the name of social engineering. A similar formula was adopted in the state legislature earlier. The party appointed Balasaheb Thorat, a Maratha, as the head or Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader, and OBC leader Vijay Wadettiwar as the leader of opposition in the Assembly.
Arif Naseem Khan was appointed as deputy leader in legislature as a representative of the Muslim community. Thorat is also considered a frontrunner for the position of the state Congress president. Meanwhile, Deora has suggested the party leadership appoint a three-member panel to lead the city unit till the upcoming state Assembly polls.
Political analyst Prakash Bal said, “It is definitely going to impact the party’s performance in the assembly polls as the Congress is already demolished in the Lok Sabha polls. It had an opportunity to reorganize itself, but it lost that as well. We are expecting dismal performance from the Congress in the state polls.”
Despite contesting 26 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress could bag just one seat, down from the two it won in 2014. Prominent candidates, including former union minister Sushilkumar Shinde, state president Ashok Chavan and Deora, lost the polls. The only respite for the Congress came from Chandrapur, where its candidate Suresh Dhanorkar defeated union minister Hansraj Ahir by a margin of 44,763 votes. Dhanorkar was also a Shiv Sena MLA, who joined the party only to contest Lok Sabha elections. The party has contested the general polls in alliance with NCP and few other small parties.
In the 2014 Assembly elections, the Congress could win only 42 seats against its tally of 82 seats in 2009 and consequently lost another opportunity to come back to power in the state. The party had contested the Assembly polls on its own. However, this time, it is expected to contest the polls in alliance with NCP and others.