The Congress, which faced its worst-ever defeat in Maharashtra, after winning only one seat, faces an uphill task to put its house in order and fight the Assembly elections.

The Congress has to try and regain lost ground opposite a stronger BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which has an upper hand in the Assembly polls.

The state unit of the party is grappling with infighting as its top leaders were not willing to work together. Attempts to derail plans of opposite camps, played a key role in the debacle, say insiders.

“There was little coordination between top leaders. Candidate selection as well as campaign planning was badly affected b ego tussles between leaders,” said a senior leader, who did not want to be named.

Another leader said candidate selection was delayed because the state unit’s recommendations were not accepted by the central leadership, owing to negative feedback from certain factions.

“The state unit recommended Suresh Dhanorkar’s candidature from Chandrapur. Dhanorkar was a sitting Shiv Sena MLA and was a strong candidate. However, the leadership gave a ticket to some other candidate, but withdrew after Chavan protested. Dhanorkar is the only candidate who got elected. We would have drawn zero in Maharashtra had the central leadership listened to dissident factions,”said the leader.

“For Bhiwandi seat, we had recommended Suresh Mhatre, but the central leadership gave ticket to Suresh Taware. For Aurangabad, we had suggested Sena MLA Harshavardhan Jadhav’s name. Both recommendations were not accepted. While Congress lost badly in Bhiwandi, its candidate came fourth in Aurangabad, while Jadhav polled more votes,” the leader said.

The leaders feel the Vikhe Patil episode caused most damage to the party. Senior leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay joined the BJP to contest from Ahmednagar. “The party should have convinced NCP chief Sharad Pawar to concede Ahmednagar seat to us. It would have avoided the embarrassment of Vikhe Patils shifting loyalties to the BJP,” said the leader.

According to state leaders, the party will have to go for an overhaul, ahead of the Assembly elections, if it has to retain its position in the state, where the party was formed 133 years ago. The party could not gain the support of its traditional voters, Muslims and Dalits, who preferred to either remain silent or chose an alternative such as VBA.

A section of state leaders have now begun demanding state unit chief Ashok Chavan’s resignation. Chavan, who lost from Nanded, is accused of not taking all major leaders into confidence. “There was no proper coordination and fixing of the responsibility among leaders. The leaders kept operating in isolation and it cost the party,” said a key functionary.

Chavan is expected to submit his report to the party’s high command in the next few days. He is also expected to offer his resignation.

“I have accepted moral responsibility and the decision taken by the party leadership will be acceptable to me,” he said.

The party leaders feel that if the state unit is not revitalised, the loss in the ensuing Assembly polls would be bigger.

Analyst Kumar Saptarshi said, “Congress has not been able to shed its old style of functioning. It is high time for it to put the house in order in Maharashtra.”

Congress has another challenge of retaining its position as the bigger party than its ally NCP after it recorded lower numbers than its ally in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.

First Published:
May 26, 2019 11:54 IST

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