Cracks within the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in Maharashtra continued to widen on Monday, with the Congress issuing a stern warning to the Shiv Sena to refrain from insulting its leaders or face consequences.
Toughening its stance over Sena’s “unsolicited” commentary on its functioning and the latter’s batting for NCP president Sharad Pawar’s appointment to the UPA chairperson’s post, senior state Congress leaders, including ministers in the MVA government, publicly stated that such “insults” will no longer be tolerated.
Addressing an event in Mumbai’s Y B Chavan Centre to mark party’s foundation day, former CM and state’s Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan reminded Thackeray’s party that it would cease to be in power without Congress’s backing.
“We haven’t joined the coalition just for show. There will be no government without the Congress,” he said. Reiterating what he said on Sunday, Chavan added, “The three parties (Shiv Sena-NCP and Congress) have come together on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) to keep the BJP at bay. But the Congress hasn’t given up on its ideologies. There will be no compromise on the CMP or party’s interests.”
Congress ministers Varsha Gaikwad and Aslam Shaikh also cautioned that they won’t care “two hoots” about their ministerial positions, if the Sena did not mend its ways.
Angering the Congress, Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP and Saamana editor Sanjay Raut, had on Saturday, taken a public dig at the Congress’s leadership. Contending that a “weak opposition” was bad for democracy, Raut had called for expansion of the Congress-led UPA.
Lashing out at the Sena on Monday, AICC’s (Maharashtra in-charge) H K Patil said, “There are efforts by some people to create confusion amongst UPA partners. Those who are not part of the UPA shouldn’t poke their nose in UPA’s affairs. They are not relevant.”
Former minister and Congress’s Mumbai campaign committee chief Naseem Khan, objecting to remarks in Sena mouthpiece Saamana, said. “If someone unnecessarily points a finger at our leader, Congress workers know how to bend it.”
He also criticised the NCP over last week’s induction of 18 Congress corporators from Bhiwandi. “The Shiv Sena and the NCP are actively poaching Congress leaders. How can this be accepted? If you want to induct a Congressman, at least consult our senior minister Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan first,” he said.
Admitting to certain “unresolved issues” in the MVA, state Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said, “We will try to resolve it. But one thing’s for sure, hurting Congress’s pride or insult of our leaders won’t be tolerated.”
# Congress wants to go solo in BMC polls
Formally taking charge of the Mumbai Congress on Monday, newly appointed city unit president Bhai Jagtap lost no time in sounding the poll bugle. Challenging the Shiv Sena on its own turf, Jagtap said his team will toil hard to hoist the Congress flag in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and have a Congress Mayor at the helm. “We wish to contest on all 227 seats. Permit us to do so,” Jagtap told AICC’s H K Patil and state Congress leadership at the party’s foundation day function.
He also sought re-induction of some leaders who had switched over in recent times. “You have expressed a view that you want to contest all seats. We will not take any decision without consulting you,” Patil replied.
Thorat, meanwhile, was more forthcoming. “I’m confident that if we fight spiritedly, Mumbai will have a Congress Mayor in 2022,” said Thorat. Khan, Shaikh also backed the call to fight solo.
With the Congress indulging in a show of strength at the event, social distancing norms, meanwhile, went for a toss. Jagtap remarked, jovially, “Forgive us. Norms aren’t applicable to us for this one day.”