AROUND FOUR months ahead of the Assembly polls, the state Congress is in a state of utter confusion over the developments in the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
With Rahul Gandhi firm on stepping down from the party president’s post and the AICC yet to name a successor, senior state party leaders said on Wednesday that the party, which is at its weakest ever in the state, is losing precious time.
“There are not even 100 days left for the election. We’re going into the election on the backfoot. There is no clarity on who would lead the party. There is no sense of direction at the moment,” said a senior leader.
Ironically, following a meeting of Rahul with state Congress leaders to discuss the upcoming polls last Saturday, indications of a change of guard in the state could be seen on Tuesday.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan has stepped down as the state Congress president taking moral responsibility for the party’s Lok Sabha defeat in the state, where it could wrest just one seat out of the 48.
Even as there are indications that former state minister and Congress’ legislative party leader Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat was Rahul’s pick to succeed Chavan, a former minister did not rule out the possibility of a delay in the change of guard in the state on account of the developments in Delhi. “We should have finalised seat-sharing talks with allies by now,” the leader said.
Sources said that AICC’s Maharashtra (in charge) Mallikarjun Kharge, whose name is now doing the rounds as being among those who could succeed Rahul, was reportedly not in favour of major organisational changes in the state just ahead of the Assembly polls.
With the party yet to name his successor, Chavan has been holding districtwise election reviews. He has also invited applications from all those interested in contesting the state polls by July 6.
Congress’ principal ally, the NCP, too, is anxious over the developments in the AICC. It is keen to finalise seat-sharing talks as soon as possible, an NCP leader said.
Meanwhile, a proposal to appoint three working presidents under the state Congress chief is still under consideration. This is aimed at setting the caste balance right, and the working presidents would hail from three communities.
Thorat, who was elected as an MLA from Sangamner in Ahmednagar in 2009, is credited for his contribution to the milk cooperative movement. A state functionary claimed that the party may also appoint three working presidents under Thorat.
Thorat is seen as a low-profile leader who does not belong to any of the factions within the Congress. In the last few years, his clout has grown in Delhi. He is a member of the Congress Working Committee, and was recently named as the leader of Congress’ legislative party in the Assembly after his arch rival, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who was previously holding the post, joined the BJP. During a recent trip to Shirdi, Rahul had made an unscheduled overnight halt and spent time with Thorat and his family.