MUMBAI: Even though the Congress had taken lead on several fronts, the phrase ‘well begun is half done’ does not suit the party in Maharashtra. With rampant defections, inability to find suitable candidates for some seats till date and decisions like changing candidates and even the party office bearers at the last moment makes one feel that though the things had begun well and well in advance, they were half-heartedly done.
Pune had been a key constituency of the party which was represented by like of Suresh Kalmadi for a long time. However, till date the party has not been able to find a suitable candidate for the constituency. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, whose name was being discussed for the seat, said on Wednesday that somebody was playing mischief and the news regarding his candidature are essentially ‘planted’ news.
District chiefs of Satara and Sangli, the two of the oldest bastions of the party, have resigned and one of them has even joined the BJP, while the one from Aurangabad – Abdul Sattar - has resigned as he wants to contest the Lok Sabha polls. While the sitting MLA met CM Fadnavis after resigning from the post, the son of the leader of opposition did so a fortnight back. There were more cases of local leaders filing or trying to file nominations against the official party candidate at some places in Vidarbha and Marathwada. The only solace the party now has is its alliance with the NCP.
The party had started negotiations with the NCP well in advance and by late January the party had almost finalised seat agreement except some five-six seats. From there the party took almost two months to seal the deal with the NCP and other smaller allies like Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS).
The party also missed opportunity to take Dalit leader Dr Prakash Ambedkar on board. While Ambedkar blame the Congress for the mess, party leaders accuse Ambedkar of playing like B-team, of the BJP and spoiling the alliance. Even if they are true, it shows the party’s weakness on the strategic front.
Party’s clumsy handling of Suresh Dhanorkar case in Chandrapur even raises questions about the party’s internal communications system. Shiv Sena’s sitting MLA – Dhanorkar – was persuaded by the local party leaders to join its fold. But, at the last moment he was denied ticket. Later, he could get the ticket only after state party chief’s audio threatening to resign over frustration went viral, the decision was reversed.
Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, however, tries to underplay all the misses. “The deviations appear to have happened as we left the seat-sharing talks and ticket distribution on some key issues for the last moment and concentrated on other things that we thought were important at that time. But, such things do happen during the elections,” he said.
Whether party relied excessively on assumption that the BJP and the Shiv Sena won’t come together for the polls, was a question he chucked.