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Maharashtra Congress in complete disarray, faces massive challenges ahead of polls

Veteran Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil had already joined BJP.  Ashok Chavan has submitted his resignation as the state party president. And with no clarity on Rahul Gandhi as party chief, it is stalemate within the Congress ahead of Maharashtra election later in 2019.

Maharashtra Congress in complete disarray, faces massive challenges ahead of polls
File photo of Ashok Chavan.

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a membership drive and an outreach up to booth level voters to bag 2.5 crore votes to retain power after the Maharashtra Assembly election, the faction-ridden Congress party is yet to recover from its rout in the Lok Sabha election, and to appoint a new state president. The party also fears large scale defection to BJP and Shiv Sena in the run-up to the assembly poll.

Former leader of Opposition and veteran Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has already joined BJP and has become a minister in the state cabinet. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' close confidant and state water resources minister Girish Mahajan has declared that leaders from Congress and Nationalist Congress Party are queuing up before official bungalow to join BJP.

Fadnavis has already asked party members not to remain complacent following a stunning performance in the Lok Sabha election. He will soon take out a month-long Vikas Yatra in the state while ministers have been asked to increase their tours in districts assigned to them.

On the other hand, Ashok Chavan, who lost to BJP nominee in his home turf of Nanded, has already submitted his resignation as the state party president. The central party leadership has hinted that former minister Balasaheb Thorat will be Chavan's successor. However, Thorat is waiting and so are four working presidents for the official appointments so that they can kickstart poll preparations.

At the district level, the party organisation is directionless and in total disarray due to lack of coordination with the state leadership. Even though the Chavan held a review of the poll debacle and the party's preparedness for assembly poll, various factions are still at loggerheads and not ready to bury the hatchet to take on the mighty BJP.

Interestingly, NCP president Sharad Pawar, who is quite keen to enter into a seat sharing with Congress for Assembly poll, recently asked Congress leader and in-charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge to set its house in order so that alliance talks can be launched. There has been no movement as Congress is unable to decide who will lead the seat-sharing talks.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson admitted that the party has to pull up its socks to effectively counter the BJP. ''However, unless Rahul Gandhi's successor is decided finally and firmly, Congress workers would continue to be confused. The style of functioning of the Congress party is such that unless Delhi is stable, no state can be stabilised which applies to Maharashtra too,'' he said.

Mahajan said Chavan had submitted his resignation right after the election results but a decision on it is still pending. It needs to be taken at the earliest.