Facing hectic lobbying in its plans to revamp the Maharashtra party unit, the central Congress leadership on Friday asked 1000-odd party leaders from the state — upwards from the block level — to suggest three names for the post of state Congress president in a telephonic poll.
The audio voting results will be one of the inputs for selection of a new state president or a decision in favour of letting incumbent Balasahab Thorat continue.
The move comes days after Thorat rushed to Delhi and conveyed his unease to the high command about the style of functioning of AICC Maharashtra in-charge H K Patil. After his visit, Patil reached Mumbai earlier this week to meet MLAs, MLCs and senior leaders to gauge their mood about the possible reshuffle, but cut short his stay and returned to Delhi on Thursday.
On Friday, the AICC Technology and Data Cell headed by Praveen Chakravarty sent out messages to over 1,000 leaders — members of block and district units and PCC delegates — about the poll. “You are an important leader of Maharashtra Congress. Today, you will get a call on this number from Delhi. Listen carefully and follow the instructions,” read the SMS sent in Patil’s name. Once the call is connected, leaders have to give three names in the next 15 seconds.
“For the first time we are not asking for one name. In the case of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, we had asked for one name… Every person will be asked to list three names in terms of their preference. It is like the rank choice voting system… People can rank candidates by preference. They can name whoever they want,” a high command leader said.
Sources said some senior leaders are not happy with the plan and have conveyed their apprehensions to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “Most district Congress presidents had been appointed by either Thorat or his predecessor Ashok Chavan. And the committees at the district and block level would have been handpicked by these district presidents. How do you expect these people to give an unbiased opinion and favour a new person?” said a leader close to one of the contenders for the state party chief’s post.
There is another apprehension. “Most MLAs and MLCs had told Patil that they are for continuation of Thorat…I don’t know whether the leadership has someone else in mind and this exercise is being carried out to appoint that person,” an AICC leader said.
The Congress leadership defended the move. “We are simply seeking the opinion of block committee members, district committee members and PCC level…It will be just one more important input which will help in decision- making…It is an opinion-gathering exercise…. We want to give them a medium where they can be fearless and give their opinion. It is not a substitute for consultation process. The AICC in charge is talking to senior leaders. We ask the opinion of people in Tilak Bhawan or 24, Akbar Road…why not open it up and add some 1000 more people in the party who are actually doing the work on the ground,” a senior leader said.
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