MUMBAI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh are among the 40 "star" campaigners of the party for the October 21 assembly elections in Maharashtra, the first major political contest after the Lok Sabha outing held earlier this year.
Among other top leaders of the party who are expected to hit the hustings are former party president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party general secretary in Uttar Pradesh.
Listing Sonia Gandhi, who had kept herself aloof from campaigning during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, as a star campaigner underlines the importance the Congress, which has lost state after states, is assigning to the Maharashtra elections.
Once a stronghold of the Congress, Maharashtra has slipped out of its grip since the emergence of the BJP. In the 2014 assembly polls, the Congress could win only 42 seats out of the total 288. Its performance in Lok Sabha polls, wherein it bagged two seats, was even dismal. In the 2019 general elections, the party won just one seat. For the October 21 elections, the Congress has tied up with the NCP.
The talks with smaller allies for a grand alliance have hit a roadblock over the allocation of seats. As per the seat-sharing arrangement, the Congress and the NCP were expected to contest 125 seats each. However, the Congress has ended up filing more nominations till October 4, the last date of filing papers.
Other prominent campaigners are former Maharashtra chief ministers Sushilkumar Shinde, Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan. Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, namely Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, and Bhupesh Baghel also figure in the list of star campaigners.
Rajasthan deputy Chief minister Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shatrughan Sinha will also campaign. Interestingly, former Mumbai Congress presidents Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam, former MP Priya Dutt are not listed as star campaigners.