Appointment of Vikas Thakre as Nagpur Congress president has virtually set to rest the speculation about not only his possible defection to the BJP but also about whether sitting MP Vilas Muttemwar will be retained as party nominee for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Thakre replaces Jaiprakash Gupta, whose term had ended about three years ago since when elections were due.
Known as Muttemwar’s protégé, Thakre, who was accorded a rousing reception on his arrival here from Mumbai on Friday, was named the Nagpur unit chief by the office of Rahul Gandhi, state Congress sources said.
Muttemwar had told Rahul during his recent visit to the city that he needed his man as party chief here to ensure the party’s victory, a senior party leader said.
For some time, speculation was rife over Thakre being picked by BJP West Nagpur Assembly constituency.
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“The manner in which Thakre was selected shows which way the scales are tilted,” said a senior state party functionary, in an obvious reference to Muttemwar, a seven-time MP who won from Nagpur for the last two consecutive terms despite strong infighting.
If fielded this time, Muttemwar will be pitted against former BJP national president Nitin Gadkari, who has managed to built support among Dalits and Muslims.
Also, Gadkari has many friends in the NCP, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel being among them. Already, NCP is showing signs of softening towards BJP.