The Maharashtra Congress leadership on Tuesday pulled up Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, senior party leader and Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, for his controversial remarks at a public function last week. Patil, who was a cabinet minister in the previous Congress-NCP government, has invited sharp criticism from within the party following his unprovoked comments that ministers of the current BJP government in the state were dearer to him than the ministers of the previous government.
While the remarks were made at a public function in Shirdi where Patil was sharing the dais with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, he has since clarified that his remarks were quoted out of context. But the clarification has not stopped the debate on whether he was costing up to the BJP. On Tuesday, former chief minister and Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan sought an explanation from the leader over his controversial remarks. Senior core committee members of the Congress, including former CM Prithviraj Chavan, who were present at the meeting, also spoke out against the comments.
Patil reiterated the stand that he has been misquoted before the senior leaders. Party sources said that Patil’s act of publicly acknowledging his “friendly ties” with Fadnavis has not gone down well with the party leadership. Ironically, the party meeting on Tuesday was being conducted at the LoP’s official residence. During the meeting, sources said a demand was raised for a similar rebuke for Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam over his decision of setting up a cell comprising religious saints and sadhus.
Questions on whether the party’s constitution permitted setting up of such a religious cell were raised. Meanwhile, in a bid to mount another offensive against the BJP government over the raging farm loan waiver issue, the Congress has decided to launch a farmer outreach campaign. According to information, the protest campaign, titled Mala Karz Maafi Milali Nahi (I haven’t benefited from the loan waiver), will see party leaders fan out across the state and interact directly with farmers. “An unrest against this government is simmering among the farming community. The party wants to make political capital out of it,” a source said.
Further, to tap the unrest among the trading community over the “lapses” in the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the party has plans for an outreach campaign for traders too. Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram will interact with traders in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur as part of this initiative, said sources.