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Maharashtra Congress worries its MLAs could be next, leadership ‘not serious’

Troubleshooter Kamal Nath back in MP, as party gives up hope regarding govt

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: June 24, 2022 11:00:43 am
Congress leaders Kamal Nath leaves after meeting with party MLAs at party leader Balasaheb Thorat's official residence, in Mumbai in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (PTI Photo)

WHILE THEY have virtually given up hopes of survival of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Congress leaders are also increasingly worried about the fate of their own MLAs in Maharashtra.

A section of the party believes many of the MLAs are “vulnerable” and that the central leadership is taking no real interest in keeping the flock together. On Wednesday night, AICC observer Kamal Nath, sent for fire-fighting in Mumbai, returned to Madhya Pradesh after a brief stay.

Officially, the Congress said its 44 MLAs were firmly with it, with Nath claiming to have met 41 and spoken to three on the phone.

As for the MVA government, a top AICC leader said “it is a gone case”.

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Nath, the chief of the Madhya Pradesh Congress who was called away just a fortnight ahead of the first phase of polling in key local body elections in the state, met NCP chief Sharad Pawar during his Mumbai stay and spoke to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over the phone. He apprised the top leadership of the situation before he departed.

A senior AICC functionary told The Indian Express: “It is a gone case. Uddhav seems to have lost the will to fight. Perhaps he has health issues. Anyway we can’t do much. Same is the case with the NCP. It is for the Shiv Sena to do whatever it can to save the government.”

When contacted, Nath said: “Our MLAs are with us. There is total unity in the Congress. But my question is why are the Shiv Sena MLAs still in Guwahati? Uddhav has said he is willing to resign and make way for a new leader. They should come back and attend a legislature party meeting and elect whoever they want. What can they achieve by sitting in Guwahati?”

However, unlike Nath, not many leaders are as confident about the Congress’s own house. One senior leader is said to have had an argument with H K Patil, the AICC in-charge of Maharashtra, for not taking the initiative to keep the flock together. “Our MLAs are roaming free. We should at least move them to a hotel. Don’t forget there was cross-voting from the Congress in the MLC elections just days ago,” a leader said.

One senior leader said “two to seven” MLAs had cross-voted, which resulted in the defeat of the party’s first choice candidate, Chandrakant Handore, the state Congress working president. “But has the party taken note of this? Has the party identified the MLAs? Have they been spoken to? We are brushing this under the carpet,” a leader said.

The party had assigned 29 votes to Handore, the first choice candidate, and 15 to its second candidate Bhai Jagtap. But Handore got only 22 votes and Jagtap managed to get 20 votes and won.

“There can be two scenarios. Five of those who were asked to vote for Handore voted for Jagtap on caste lines (Jagtap is a Maratha while Handore is a Dalit). If that is the case, then two of our MLAs voted for the BJP. But some of our senior leaders are claiming that Jagtap had managed to secure five extra votes from Independents and other parties. If that is true, then seven of our MLAs voted for candidates of other parties. Isn’t it a cause for worry? But we are not taking it seriously. That means some of our MLAs are vulnerable,” a senior leader said.

Speaking to The Indian Express after his defeat, Handore had said: “I have done my math and found that two of our MLAs cross-voted and five votes meant for me went to Jagtap.”

Asked about the same, a senior leader said: “We are yet to identify these seven MLAs… find out whether five of them defied the whip and voted for Jagtap when they were told to vote for Handore, or all seven of them voted for BJP candidates.”

Urging the party to show “seriousness”, the leader added: “Kamal Nath came for a day and went back, we can’t blame him as he has to look after the party in his state too. But H K Patil is said to be in a hotel in Mumbai. He says if any MLA wants to meet him, they can meet him. Is this how we should operate? The leaders who were given charge of the state are very lightweight – be it state Congress president Nana Patole, Balasaheb Thorat or Patil. Uddhav hasn’t met any of them so far. He met Pawar. What does it show?”

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