Ahead of polls, Maharashtra Congress faces worst crisis

Interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (PTI photo)

The Congress in Maharashtra is facing a big crisis. Battlelines are drawn but candidates of the grand old party is yet to be communicated on the campaign schedule of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi. 

The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) and the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) — the two most powerful Congress units — are in a state of crisis. Talking to DH on condition of anonymity, some senior leaders have expressed displeasure over the All India Congress Committee (AICC) handling the elections. 

"Practically speaking, we are in a state of confusion, chaos and mess...senior leaders are themselves contesting and are concentrating in their seats," a senior leader said, adding that former chief ministers and MPCC presidents are fighting polls.

Two former CMs — Prithviraj Chavan (Karad South) and Ashok Chavan (Bhokarare) — are contesting polls, while another ex-CM and ex-MPCC chief Sushilkumar Shinde's daughter Pranati Shinde is contesting the Solapur South Central seat. On the other hand, ex-CM Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar is witnessing a battle between his son Ashok and estranged grandson Sambaji in family seat of Nilanga.

After Ashok Chavan resigned as MPCC president in wake of Lok Sabha polls debacle, the Congress appointed Balasaheb Thorat to succeed him and brought in four MPCC working presidents — Nitin Raut, Muzzafar Hussain, Yashomati Thakur, Basavraj Patil and Vishwajeet Kadam. "All of them are contesting polls," a senior leader said.

Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Vijay Wadettiwar is contesting the Brahmapuri seat, deputy leader of Congress in Assembly Naseem Khan is fighting the Chandivali seat. "A powerful leader, orator and organiser like Vilasrao Deshmukh is being missed," a Congress loyalist said.

Late Deshmukh's two sons Amit (Latur City) and Dhiraj (Latur Rural) are contesting polls. MPCC campaign committee chairman Nana Patole is also contesting the polls. Former MP Eknath Gaikwad is being made Mumbai Congress chief and his daughter Dr Varsha Gaikwad is contesting the Dharavi seat. 

The Mumbai Congress was once led by giants like late Murli Deora and late Gurudas Kamat.

The problems within MRCC started during Lok Sabha polls when Sanjay Nirupam was abruptly removed and Milind Deora was brought in. Deora quit after the Lok Sabha results. After that the first who decided to stay away was actress-activist Urmila Matondkar. Then veteran North Indian face and a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist and ex-MRCC president Kripashankar Singh resigned. 
Now, Nirupam had decided to stay away from campaign and seemed to make Mallikarjun Kharge, the AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, his target.

"We have never seen Congress in Mumbai and Maharashtra  in such a situation," a senior political observor said, adding that the Congress high-command should have made efforts to retain a dashing leader like Narayan Rane, who is now on the NDA side and a BJP sponsored Rajya Sabha member. His son Nitesh Rane, a sitting Congress MLA,  has quit and joined  the BJP to seek re-election from Kankavli. The AICC has sent Avinash Pande to man the war room in Maharashtra.

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