NEW DELHI: A month left for the Maharashtra and Haryana elections, the Congress appears to be slow off the block as it was caught putting its house in order to take on the BJP in these states. Delay in settling leadership issues in Haryana, failure to stop crossovers to the BJP in Maharashtra and no clarity in party on tackling the BJP’s nationalism stand is likely to dent the party’s chances in both states.
After the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress failed to put its act together and act swiftly to prepare for the Assembly elections. The Congress was decimated in Haryana and it won only one seat in Maharashtra. According to a senior Congress leader, there was ambiguity in the party for nearly two months post Rahul Gandhi’s resignation and that effected the poll preparations. The BJP has already launched election campaigns with rallies of PM Narendra Modi and Home minister Amit Shah in these states.
Changes in Maharashtra Congress came through early with appointment of Balasaheb Thorat, a Maratha leader, in July but the decision of leadership change in Haryana came in September. Many senior Congress leaders, including former Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and former minister Harshvardhan Patil, joining the BJP came as a setback in Maharashtra.
Former Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh has also quit the party and is reportedly in talks with the BJP. Former Mumbai Congress chiefs Milind Deroa and Sanjay Nirupam continue to be at loggerheads over various issues including resignation of actor turned politician Urmila Matondkar.
“The crossovers just before elections impact morale of party cadre. We have now zeroed on people-related issues like farm distress, job losses and state of economy to reach out to masses,” said a Congress leader.
With the BJP making NRC and abrogation of Article 370 as election issues, the Congress is treading cautiously keeping in mind sentiments of people attached to it. “In Haryana, had party settled the leadership issue, there was a chance to put up a good fight against the BJP led government. The infighting among leadership has sent a wrong signal among people and party workers,” said a Haryana Congress leader.