Newly-appointed State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat on Wednesday said he will try to bring all anti-BJP forces in the state together to forge a united alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the forthcoming assembly elections. “Our effort will be to bring together all parties which respect democratic functioning and are ready to take on anti-secular forces. We will put up a united front of parties for whom democracy and constitution are supreme, ” Thorat said.
Does it mean taking onboard parties Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Agadhi and Raj Thackeray-led MNS ? “During Lok Sabha elections, we could not form an alliance with Vanchit Bahujan Agadhi because of which at least 9 of the Congress-NCP candidates lost. This time, we will make effors to take VBA on board,” he said.
When asked whether he considers VBA as the B-team of BJP, an allegation which his predecessor Ashok Chavan often levelled, Thorat said he never said that and wouldn’t like to discuss it further.
As regards MNS, Thorat said, “Raj Thackeray did meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But I think the alliance issue was not discussed. It was relating to the EVMs for which Thackeray sought Congress’ support.”
During the Lok Sabha election, NCP, the alliance partner of the Congress, was keen on taking MNS on board.
However, the Congress kept saying that there were ideological differences with it. Later though the Congress too became amenable to MNS after Raj Thackeray held rallies attacking Modi-Shah duo, in effect working in favour of Congress-NCP alliance.
Thorat said no alliance talks have so far been initiated with MNS. “There has been no proposal from MNS from so far. Therefore, I not discussed the issue with anyone so far. When the proposal comes, we will take it up with the party’s central leadership,” he said.
When asked about the pathetic performance of the Congress in Lok Sabha elections, Thorat said,”It is indeed serious concern. However, we are hopeful that during assembly elections, the scenario will be completely different. This has been proved in case of states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which voted for Congress in assembly election but voted for BJP in Lok Sabha election,” he said.
Thorat downplayed the infighting in Congress ranks. “It happens in all parties and organisation. But in Congress, it is not a big issue. Whatever small differences are there, we will be sorted out,” he said.
Thorat said the seat-sharing talks with NCP has begun and it will take some rounds before we arrive at a final decision. “We also have to allot seats to our other alliance partners,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Ulhas Pawar said Thorat has a big task on hand. “The Congress’ fortunes have depleted drastically. The party is facing strong challenge of survival as it has only one Lok Sabha seat. Thorat will have to be aggressive and guide the party through this turbulent time,” he said.
Pawar said he was not happy with the appointment of various leaders to various committees of MPCC. “I hope our State party chief will ensure that strong leaders with mass following are appointed to key posts so that the party is in a position to taken on the BJP-Shiv Sena in the forthcoming polls,” he said.
Stating that a Thorat is a long-time Congress loyalist, Pawar said,”Thorat’s family has been associated with the Congress for a long-time. They have remained with the Congress during good and bad phases. His non-controversial image, loyalty to the party and a seniority seem to have yielded him the top state post.”