The newly-elected state NCP president Sunil Tatkare has embarked on re-building the organisation, acknowledging that the real challenge for the party remains in Vidarbha and Marathwada, traditionally the party’s weak turf.
Vidarbha accounts for 60 seats and Marathwada 48 seats, together accounting for nearly 85 per cent of the strength of the Legislative Assembly.
Tatkare, who was entrusted the task of leading the state party a year ago, has been re-elected for a term of three years. The organisational base of the party is comparatively stronger in western Maharashtra with presence of established leaders.
In 2014, Sharad Pawar’s party won only 41 out of total 288 Assembly seats in the state and was relegated to fourth position. The groundswell of support for the saffron combine saw BJP win 122 seats and ally Shiv Sena 63 seats. Congress got 42 seats.
Although NCP president Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar will play a key role in the party’s decision making, they have given a long list of dos and don’ts to Tatkare.
Tatkare is considered a close confidant of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. However, Tatkare believes, “NCP works as a team under the leadership of (Sharad ) Pawarsaheb and guided by Ajitdada Pawar and all senior leaders.”
On his priorities he said: “To begin with, I have to downsize the team from 100-plus office bearers to a decent 30 to 35 members. And that is not an easy job. It will be followed by focusing on cadre building organisation across state.” Tatkare said he wants to change the “misplaced” perception that the NCP is a “contractor driven party”.
He also added that district cadre would have a greater say in decisions. “We will have to change the work culture. We will not allow the headquarters alone to take decision related to any candidate or issues. We will now give greater weightage to the feedback received from our local and district pointsmen/ women.”
Tatkare believes there is enough time to re-build the party to get in back in the game for the 2019 assembly elections and as a first step, is taking stock of shortcomings that would be fixed to give the party the muscle to fight local body polls.
“The local body elections – corporations, panchanyats and zilla parishads – beginning from mid-2016 and concluding with BMC polls in early 2017 will be a real test and we have to start preparations from now.”
Tatkare added: “To begin with we will tap the farmer’s problems which is a burning issue across state. Even Pawarsaheb ( Sharad ) will tour parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada after the Parliament session. Personally, I tour all districts across state from May first week which would continue will June. I have decided to spend a day in every district.”
He believes that the failure of the Centre and the state to tackle farmer’s problems will enable the organisation to establish a base in rural Maharashtra.