The Congress plot in Maharashtra looks to be unraveling fast as the Lok Sabha polls inch closer. The latest controversy to hit the party, which has failed to put together a formidable grand alliance so far, is a leaked audio clip of a telephonic conversation between state Congress chief and MP Ashok Chavan and a harried party worker from Chandrapur. In the audio clip, which was leaked on Saturday, Chavan can be heard stating that he is in the “frame of mind to resign”. Although HT is in possession of the clip, it could not be independently verified.
The incident has brought to the fore the simmering dissent in the Maharashtra unit of Congress. If Chavan resigns amidst elections, the party organization in the state will be in trouble. Saturday’s controversy pertains to the selection of a candidate for Chandrapur constituency in Vidarbha. Although the party top brass chosen former district president Vinayak Bangade, his candidature attracted opposition from local party workers. The party worker who can be heard in the clip identified himself as Rajurkar and complained about Bangade’s candidature. He said Chandrapur could be a “sure seat” if the ticket was given to sitting Sena MLA Balu Dhanorkar, who had announced he would leave his party.
Chavan can be heard telling Rajurkar, “I am with you on this. But, nobody is listening to me here. You speak to Wasnik [Congress leader Mukul Wasnik]. I am also in a frame of mind to resign .” Chavan was planning to give Dhanorkar the ticket to put up a tough fight for sitting BJP MP and Union minister Hansraj Ahir.
However, this is not the end of Chavan’s worries. His close aide and Aurangabad legislator, Abdul Sattar also revolted on Saturday after the party announced Subhash Zambad’s name for the Aurangabad seat. Sattar stated, “I will contest Aurangabad seat as an independent candidate. I have nothing against the party or the candidate. Why don’t you want a Muslim to go to the LS?”
Chavan tried to downplay both the audio clip leak and Sattar’s rebellion. “I have not heard the audio tape. But, I have no hesitation in admitting that there is some discontent among leaders over Chandrapur. It is my duty to resolve the issues.” Commenting on Sattar, Chavan stated, “Such things happen during elections. All the issues will be resolved soon.”
The Congress has been dealing with a bunch of problems in the run-up to the LS polls. According to a senior leader, the efforts to put up strong candidates or accommodate allies to counter the BJP-Sena alliance are being strongly opposed by party factions. “Party leaders need to come together, but they’re working against each other.”
Significantly, Opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, whose son defected to the BJP, has also been sulking for being kept out of a key party meeting in Delhi. He stayed away from the Congress-NCP alliance meeting on Saturday.
The party rivalry has also been on full display in Mumbai, where city chief Sanjay Nirupam faced opposition. Congress’s plan of a grand alliance has also not materialized. Despite initiating alliance talks since September 2018, the Congress-NCP could not get the SP-BSP and the local Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi on-board. These fronts will cut into the Opposition’s votes of both Muslims and Dalits, who are not in a mood to support the BJP.