The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced the schedule for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the political parties across the nation are keeping no stone unturned to shine brightly in their respective poll campaigns. Major national political parties like Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are going every extra mile to influence the voters with their poll manifestoes. However, Maharashtra Congress seems to have been running back foot with hardly any senior leaders — be it Kripashankar Singh, Kalidas Nilkanth Kolambkar, Chandrakant Handore, or Pratibha Patil — in the front row and the newbie leaders like Sanjay Nirupam are running the show. It is reported that these leaders have either gone underneath for personal reasons or were sidelined due to inner conflict in the party. Moreover, it is observed that the missing and forgotten roots of the country’s oldest political party in Maharashtra can damage its prospects in the upcoming poll season. While, till the last Lok Sabha and state assembly polls, many senior leaders, who were sidelined by the party itself, are now being persuaded to make a comeback. At that, many Congress regional leaders and grassroots workers believe that this is high time that the party should highlight its strength and unity to secure the loyal voters.
Congress MLA Balasaheb Thorat spoke to Afternoon Voice and expressed, “The Congress party has done a lot for the Vikhe family and joining BJP is an ethically wrong decision taken by Sujay Vikhe Patil. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is one of the senior Congress leaders and the post of Maharashtra’s Leader of Opposition is with him; he also served the Ministry of Finance in the state. Sujay’s decision is a loss for the party.”
Former Mumbai Congress President and former home minister Kripashankar Singh has landed in the soup following suggestions of fielding him from a BJP dominated Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency. Singh had earlier asked for a seat from either the Mumbai North West or the Mumbai North Central constituencies but the party reportedly picked City President Sanjay Nirupam from the same seat against Shiv Sena.
Senior Congress leader Janardan Chandurkar stated, “My suggestion to Sanjay Nirupam is to get all the party leaders, workers, and supporters together. Congress is a national party and there might be internal disagreements which can lead to splits among its leaders. Be it senior or junior leaders, all must come together and work for the party rather than mud-slinging at each other. If we want to save Congress, we must eradicate the internal conflicts from the party.”
He further added, “Congress in 2019 has a golden opportunity to come to power. The people of India are fed up with the ruling government as it has failed to fulfill its promises.”
Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar, a seven-time MLA, has represented the Wadala-Naigaon constituency for more than three decades and is likely to join the BJP soon as per political analysts’ observation. Kolambkar, originally a Shiv Sainik, left the Sena in 2005 along with former Chief Minister Narayan Rane and joined Congress. Although it seems Kolambkar has not been a part of Congress for some time and neither he has attended any party programme.
As per reports, Priya Dutt, the former Congress MP from Mumbai North Central constituency, was upset with the infight in the Congress that led her to take the decision to not contest elections. However, in a major development ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, she has changed her mind after interacting with party president Rahul Gandhi and accepted the nomination from Mumbai North Central constituency. Currently, the Mumbai North Central constituency is represented by BJP’s Poonam Mahajan, who defeated Congress MP Priya Dutt in 2014.
Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh said, “There are conflicts in every party, but what makes Congress different is the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Sanjay Nirupam is a good leader and people should not spread hatred against him. The senior leaders of the party are equally active within, although the party gives tickets to those who are eligible and most suitable for that particular constituency.”
Moreover, the death of senior leader Gurudas Kamat in August 2018 indeed put the state Congress in a crucial state. Kamat served as the former Mumbai Congress President and he was a Member of the Parliament for the Mumbai North West constituency of Maharashtra in 2009, and Mumbai North East constituency of Maharashtra in 1984, 1991, 1998, and 2004. He also served as the Minister of State for Home Affairs with an additional charge of Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Government of India from 2009 to 2011. He resigned as minister in July 2011. He was appointed General Secretary All India Congress Committee and was also appointed as a member of the Congress Working Committee. Kamat resigned from the party in 2016 saying he was retiring from politics, however, reports suggested that he was sidelined in the Mumbai Congress unit.
Peoples Republican Party President Jogendra Kawade asserted, “The leaders who have served as the Ministers, MPs, and MLAs under the leadership of Congress are now leaving the party and it clearly shows that these leaders are power hungry; neither they have cared about the people nor any party. Voters will never elect these leaders as their representatives. Congress should sort out the internal conflicts and lead all the members on a single path. The party must also maintain good relationships with the alliance parties.”