There is a proposal to invite Congress senior leader Rahul Gandhi to the Congress Foundation Day ceremony on December 28. Rahul Gandhi the Congress leader is expected to strengthen ties with the Shiv Sena, which has vehemently opposed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to have a Congress-mukt opposition. Sources in the Congress said that plans are stirring to have Gandhi meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, preferably at the latter’s residence, next week.
The Congress-Sena friendliness was on display in the wake of Mamata’s outburst against Gandhi and the Congress in Mumbai. Sena MP Sanjay Raut met Rahul and his sister Priyanka early this week. Before meeting the Gandhi siblings, Raut had made it clear, through his editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna and public statements, that no united and strong opposition front was possible without the Congress, which also is the mainstay of the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra.
Earlier this week Mamata met NCP’s Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, but could not meet Thackeray who was in a big bubble. Minister and Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and Raut met the Trinamool Congress president. Congress members look forward to the meeting.
Another Congress leader said there is a proposal to invite Gandhi to address a public rally at Shivaji Park on the party’s foundation day (December 28), but it does not seem possible in view of the Covid protocol and restrictions.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the prevailing situation should help the authorities concerned decide about the permission for the public rally. “If a public rally isn’t possible, Rahul Ji can very well visit the historic places where the party was founded in the city. He can meet leaders indoors as well,” said the leader, adding that a meeting with Thackeray could happen even later this month if it does not take place next week.
The Congress has changed its official candidate for the legislative council poll in Nagpur, replacing a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) import, Dr Ravindra aka Chhotu Bhoyar, with an independent, Mangesh Sudhakar Deshmukh. With a day to go for polling on December 10, the party made an announcement to this effect on Thursday evening. The four-time corporator, Bhoyar, was given a ticket within a day for the polls late last month.
Projected as “a giant killer in the making” against the BJP’s former energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Bhoyar dropped the campaign midway, telling the Congress that he would not be able to arrange resources. Party leaders met last Saturday to support Deshmukh instead of Bhoyar but got the high command’s clearance on Thursday.
Maharashtra Congress Vice-President Mohan Joshi wrote to Nagpur City President Vikas Thakre and Nagpur Rural Chief Rajendra Mulak that since Bhoyar has expressed his inability to contest, the All-India Congress Committee has decided that Deshmukh be given support.