Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat has said he will try to unite all anti-BJP forces in the state to take on the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the upcoming Assembly elections. “We will try to bring together all parties that 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 the Constitution are supreme,” said Thorat.
In an interview to The Indian Express on Wednesday, Thorat spoke about the Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha elections, reports of infighting within the party, and their plans regarding the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
He said, “During the Lok Sabha elections, we could not form an alliance with the VBA because of which at least nine Congress-NCP candidates lost. This time, we will make efforts to take VBA on board.”
About the MNS, Thorat said, “Raj Thackeray met 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, the NCP, the alliance partner of Congress, was in favour of also bringing the MNS on board. However, the Congress reportedly rejected the idea, citing their “ideological differences” with the MNS.
Later, though, the Congress became amenable to the MNS after Raj Thackeray held rallies criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Thorat said that no alliance talks have been initiated with the MNS. “There has been no proposal from the MNS from so far. When the proposal comes, we will take it up with the party’s central leadership,” he said.
Referring to the Congress’ poor performance in the recently-concluded elections, Thorat said, “It is indeed a serious concern. However, we are hopeful that in the 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 the Assembly election but voted BJP in the Lok Sabha election.”
Thorat also played down reports of infighting in Congress ranks. “It happens in all parties and organisations. But in Con-gress, it is not a big issue. What-ever small differences there are, we will resolve them,” he said.
Thorat said that seat-sharing talks with the NCP have begun, but it will take some time before a final decision is reached. “We also have to give seats to our other alliance partners,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Ulhas Pawar said Thorat has his work cut out. “The Congress’ fortunes have depleted drastically. The party is struggling for survival as it has only one Lok Sabha seat. Thorat will have to be aggressive and guide the party in this turbulent time,” he said. Pawar said he was not happy with the appointment of leaders to various committees of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. “I hope our state party chief will ensure that strong leaders with mass followings 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.
Pawar said Thorat is a long-time Congress loyalist. “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 seniority seem to have raised him to the top state post,” he said.