Alliance eluding, Cong, NCP enter poll mode with rallies in state

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With an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP have started working on strengthening their organisational setups separately and launched mass outreach programmes to take on the BJP-led state government.

However, though the parties have launched various programmes in their respective capacities, they have yet to formalise any alliance to contest the elections.

The Congress is holding organisational meetings to take stock of the prevailing political situation while the Sharad Pawar-led NCP has been undertaking “Hallabol” (attack) yatras in various regions of the state since the last few months to “expose” the ruling BJP.

In 2014 polls, both the parties, which had jointly ruled the state for 15 years, had contested separately against the BJP and the Shiv Sena. However, both of them fared badly during the Narendra Modi “wave” that time.

Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan admitted that the NCP has taken a lead over the Congress in projecting itself as an aggressive opposition party by attacking the Devendra Fadnavis-led government and maintaining the momentum.

A section of the state Congress unit is unhappy with incumbent president Ashok Chavan, a former chief minister, as they feel that he is not aggressive enough to take on the ruling dispensation.

A Congress office-bearer said the party had been organising district-wise camps and was in the process of setting up booth committees, but he admitted that more need to be done.

“We need to project ourselves as an aggressive opposition,” he said.

Citing the case of former Congress leader Narayan Rane, who quit the party last year and joined the NDA, the leader said the party loyalists are being ignored while turncoats are being entertained.

“What did Rane (a former Shiv Sainik) do for the party which had made him a minister (in the UPA government) and treated him with respect. Loyalists were made to sit at home and are not given any responsibility,” he said.

Another office-bearer interpreted the recent appointments of new leaders on the All India Congress Committee (AICC) as a signal for Chavan to get his act together.

“Nitin Raut who demanded Chavans removal as state president has been made the chairman of the SC/ST cell of the AICC, while Rajiv Satav, who is not pro-Ashok Chavan, has been given charge of Gujarat,” he said.

Meanwhile, NCP leader Nawab Malik said the party had succeeded in putting pressure on the BJP government through its “hallabol” rallies.

The yatra, which began from Yavatmal in east Maharashtra last December, will culminate in a rally in Mumbai in October this year.

“The state government is indulging in publicity campaigns only and is giving false assurances to the people. It has used the state machinery to create perception that a lot of development is happening. The government data about the number of farmers being benefited under the loan waiver scheme is not true. The government’s claims are not reflecting on the ground,” Malik claimed.

However, a BJP leader expressed confidence over the party’s prospects in upcoming polls and pointed at the performance of the party in the local body polls held in the state in the last one year.

“The BJP has won the maximum number of local bodies polls held in the last one year. The party’s electoral success is an indication that people are happy with the Devendra Fadnavis government,” he said.

According to political observers, the Halla Bol agitation saw a united NCP state leadership in action.

“Even though there is still time for political parties to go to the people, the Congress seems to be lagging behind as it is focussing on organisational meetings as well as district-wise meetings with the party workers,” they said.

Malik said during the “Halla bol” campaign, all the state NCP leaders travelled together by road while addressing three to four public meetings on way, during which they interacted with the common people.

“This sent a message that all the leaders of the party are united,” he said.

Though the NCP is seeking an early announcement of a pre-poll tie up with the Congress, the Grand Old Party seems not to be in hurry.

According to a Congress leader, the party is assessing its own strengths and weaknesses constituency-wise by holding internal discussions.

MPCC (Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee) spokesman Sachin Sawant the party had completed its review of all the 288 assembly constituencies and has also finalised its stand to be taken during the Congress-NCP seat-sharing talks.

“Our Jan Akrosh rallies all over the state culminated in a rally in Nagpur in December last year where many Opposition leaders, including Sharad Pawar, participated. The rallies will be organised again soon,” he said.

A Congress office-bearer said the state unit is contemplating to focus on a research and feedback cell to help the party prepare for the crucial elections next year.