After much sparring with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) during the recent local-level elections that often escalated to a war of words, the state unit of the Congress has finally made it official. There will be no alliance with the NCP in the future, said state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre yesterday in the presence of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Thakre was speaking before party office-bearers during Gandhi’s visit to the city.
The state Congress chief’s resolve came in for much appreciation from over 550 block presidents of the party, who went on to echo Thakre’s sentiment before Gandhi, scion of the powerful family that controls the Congress and who many in the ruling party say will become prime minister soon. Thakre’s declaration is set to destabilise the Congress-NCP alliance applecart, which has so far managed to trundle along since the 1999 general election.
Since the recent elections to local and civic bodies, the Congress has been at loggerheads with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP. The chief grouse has been over the NCP joining hands with the Shiv Sena and the BJP, parties it does not get along with at the state and national levels, to claim power in civic bodies, zilla parishads and other local bodies. “The NCP has cheated us at several places in the state during the local body elections,” Thakre said.
Addressing the meeting of Congress block presidents and district chiefs at the state headquarters of the party at Tilak Bhavan in Prabhadevi, Thakre dwelt at length on the NCP’s attempts to weaken the Congress base. He specially mentioned NCP arriving at deals with the saffron parties in Chandrapur, Yavatmal, Bhandara and other districts where the alliance partner queered the pitch for the Congress.
Though well received by party men from the state, Thakre’s statement on the snapping of ties with the NCP did not elicit any reaction from Gandhi, who during his interaction with them did not utter a word on the future of the alliance. This was seen as a tacit approval of the stance taken by Thakre and the others, as party sources said any senior leader visiting the city for just one day would otherwise have stopped those present from taking up precious time on a topic that was not on the agenda.
Most of the block presidents who got a chance to speak expressed sharp feelings about the NCP, demanding a snapping of ties. Septuagenarian Baburao Kulkarni, a staunch party leader from Ambad in Jalna district, was highly critical of the NCP. As he was the first to speak, his utterances set the tone for the meeting and anti-NCP talk became the order of the day. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Mohan Prakash, All-India Congress Committee in-charge for the state, were also present on the occasion.
Gandhi did not address the party office-bearers but asked them a few questions and appealed to them to pose a few questions to him. Asked after the meeting to elaborate on the anti-NCP talk, Thakre said this had been the general feeling among Congress workers and he had given voice to it before Gandhi. NCP state unit spokesman Madan Bafna refused to react to the development, saying there was nothing new in it. “Let them say what they want to,” he said.
CM, thakre come in for praise
Gandhi also asked the block presidents to speak on Chief Minister Chavan’s performance, and most of the replies that came in were positive, saying the CM was doing a good job. “I am also aware that the CM is doing good work. He is a good person and I know him very well,” said Gandhi. Saying the government was also doing a good job, the young Congress leader went on to appreciate the work done by Thakre as well. Gandhi’s praise for CM and Thakre assumes significance in the light of recent complaints made against them by a group within the party. A group of MLAs had held meetings during the recently concluded Budget Session of the state legislature. Chavan was targeted over his alleged slow decision-making. When Gandhi asked his party men who were the good ministers, three names came up in response — Industries Minister Narayan Rane, Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat. “No other minister?” asked Gandhi to his party men. The question elicited no response.
First Gandhi at Tilak Bhavan in 5 decades
RAHUL Gandhi yesterday became the first member of the Gandhi family to visit the Congress state headquarters at Tilak Bhavan in over five decades. He spent two-and-half hours there and had separate meetings with Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee office-bearers and clicked pictures. He also took a round of the two-storey building and interacted with the staffers at the party office. Later, Gandhi had lunch with senior leaders, in which he was served pomfret, dal, rice and chapati.