A number of senior party functionaries are reportedly disgruntled with the party and its leadership, and might be inducted into BJP before the state elections begin
On July 13, the Indian National Congress appointed Balasaheb Thorat as the party's new Maharashtra chief, replacing Ashok Chavan, a former chief minister and party stalwart.
Chavan had resigned after the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine was routed in Maharashtra during the Lok Sabha polls, winning one and four seats respectively in the 48 parliamentary seats reserved for the state.
Thorat has participated in farmers' movements in Maharashtra, and has played an influential role in Maharashtra's cooperative movement. He was elected to the legislative assembly as an Independent for the first time in 1985, but had joined the Congress later. A former agriculture, revenue and school education minister, Thorat has been elected to the assembly seven times from Sangamner constituency in Ahmednagar district.
Thorat's mission for the party, say leaders in Maharashtra, is cut out: one of the first things that Thorat needs to look into is the factionalism riddling the party, and the possibility of a rebellion. Divisions within the party means that more senior leaders and party functionaries may make their way to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) months before the Assembly polls.
Senior leaders such as Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who was the Congress' Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Assembly, joined the BJP before the national elections, following in the footsteps of his son Sujay, who had jumped ship to the saffron party a month before that. A number of senior party functionaries are also reportedly disgruntled with the party and its leadership, and might be inducted into BJP before the state elections begin.
"Thorat himself was an unhappy leader in the party until some time ago, so to placate other leaders in Maharashtra Congress while also managing alliances is going to be the challenge," a Congress leader told Moneycontrol.
Thorat was reportedly unhappy with the party for not offering him the roles of the LoP and the leader of Congress Legislative Party (CLP), both of which fell vacant after Vikhe Patil's exit. Thorat was eventually made CLP leader.
Another leader said top leaders like Thorat "cannot keep on bickering" if they want to "save Congress in Maharashtra".
"While top leaders going to the BJP make news, functionaries such as district presidents, which the BJP is poaching actively, are also important clogs in the party. Seasoned leaders like Thorat need to stop that from happening," the leader added.
Another challenge for Thorat would be to balance alliances and seat-sharing pacts. With the NCP asking for more seats, and state Congress leaders expressing interest in an alliance with Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), seat-sharing, observers have stated, can become a contentious issue.
Turning the tide for Congress in western Maharashtra, from where Thorat hails, would also be on the senior leader's radar.Along with Thorat, several other senior leaders, including former CM Prithviraj Chavan and former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, were appointed to various committees.The Great Diwali Discount!
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