The crisis-laden Congress has decided not to project a single face ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra.
While naming former state revenue minister Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat as the Congress president on Saturday evening, it also appointed five working presidents to overcome infighting within the party unit. They are former minister Nitin Raut, sitting legislators Yashomati Thakur, Vishwajeet Kadam and Basavraj Patil, and former MLC Muzaffar Hussain.
The new organisational model is also being seen as the party’s attempt to set the caste and regional balance right ahead of the crucial elections, likely to be held in October. In the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, the Congress had recorded its worst ever electoral performance in the state where it was founded, managing to win just one seat.
Thorat, who represents north Maharashtra’s Sangamner in the Legislative Assembly, is considered as Rahul Gandhi’s pick to replace former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who had resigned as the party chief after the Lok Sabha debacle.
While Thorat belongs to the dominant Maratha community, Raut and Thakur (both from Vidharbha) belong to the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Class categories, respectively. Kadam (from western Maharashtra) is a Maratha, while Patil (Marathwada) hails from the Lingayat community. Hussain, on the other hand, is an influential face from the minority community in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
Meanwhile, another legislator, K C Padavi (from Nandurbar in North Maharashtra), who belongs to a Scheduled Tribe community, has succeeded Thorat as Congress’ new legislative party leader. Padavi had earlier contested the Lok Sabha poll from Nandurbar, where he was defeated by BJP’s Heena Gavit.
While a section of senior state leaders had reportedly opposed the appointment of working presidents, sources said that the idea had the backing of All India Congress Committee state in charge Mallikarjun Kharge.
The new team’s first task will be to complete seat-sharing talks with ally NCP, which has stepped up the pressure for a proportionate division of seats between the two parties. Sources said that the first round of talks are to be held on Wednesday. The new team will also have to evolve a plan to stop the ongoing exodus from the party, sources added.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was named as the head of the Congress’ state coordination committee for the state elections, while another former CM, Prithviraj Chavan, will head the manifesto committee.
Former MP Nana Patole, who had contested against Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, for the Nagpur Lok Sabha poll, has been named as the campaign committee head.