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Almost every day is proving to be an adventure of sorts for the Congress in Maharashtra. Devoid of a strong leader, such as Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the state Congress unit is fighting to stave off its perennial scourge: infighting. It continues to manifest in defections of several leaders with generations of “Congressi” background. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son Sujay joined the BJP and even got a ticket to contest from Ahmednagar. Reports of his father’s resignation emerged. However, Congress named Radhakrishna as one of the 40 star campaigners, sort of cementing their association. While Patil may or may not campaign in Ahmednagar, where his son is contesting, it will be interesting to watch how it pans out.
On March 23, the Congress and the NCP made the grand announcement of 56 political and social outfits, big and small, coming together to defeat the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the state. While the Congress would contest 24 and the NCP 20, two seats were reserved for Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana, one for Bahujan Vikas Aghadi and one for Yuva Swabhiman Paksha. However, within days, Pravin Cheda, whose name was discussed for a ticket in Mumbai, left for the BJP. More importantly, Pratik Patil, grandson of former chief minister Vasantdada Patil, left the Congress when the Sangli seat was given to Raju Shetti of the SSS.
Amidst political fights, Congress has also had to defend the candidature for Navinchandra Bandiwadekar, who has been seen with Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha. The development has delivered a setback to the party’s secular narrative, albeit temporarily. If rural Maharashtra is recording family feuds or tussles over candidature, Mumbai hasn’t been easy either. Sanjay Nirupam was removed as Mumbai Congress chief and the post went to Milind Deora. And in the absence of a strong candidate, reports of film actor Urmila Matondkar getting a Congress ticket to contest from Mumbai North are keeping the vine buzzing.
By Prachi Pinglay-Plumber in Mumbai