Some want Congress to go it alone in Assembly and general elections

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday listened to party workers' views on the functioning of the coalition government in Maharashtra, and demands that the Congress have no alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the next Assembly elections.

At a meeting in the Tilak Bhavan at Dadar, the workers expressed themselves against any alliance with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP. “Please do not tell us to have a tie-up with the NCP in western Maharashtra,” one worker told Mr. Gandhi. “In western Maharashtra, when they [the administrators] see a letterhead with the hand symbol, they throw it to the dustbin. This was brought to Mr. Gandhi's notice,” advocate Akash More of Baramati told The Hindu.

Some office-bearers opined that the Congress should go it alone, not only in the local bodies polls but also in the Assembly and general elections.

A party worker said Mr. Gandhi heard various suggestions and did not make any speech. Some participants expressed unhappiness with the nomination of candidates for the corporation elections in Mumbai, which the Shiv Sena won.

There was also resentment at the non-performance of some Ministers in the State Cabinet. A worker said people did not name them , but spoke favourably of three Congress Ministers.

After some complaints of the non-functioning of the government, Mr. Gandhi defended Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, saying he knew him for long and he had done a good work, a source said.

A Congress worker told Mr. Gandhi that this government did not give priority to party members in the approval of works, and decisions were not taken soon.

Even at the first meeting, which Mr. Gandhi addressed in Bhaidas Hall, members of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India raised concerns at the alliance with the NCP. Mr. Gandhi assured the delegates that he would dedicate more time to reviewing the working of the party at the grass roots.

However, Mr. Chavan said at a press conference later that the purpose of Mr. Gandhi's tour of Maharashtra was to have a dialogue with the newly elected Youth Congress and local body representatives; it was not arranged with elections in mind. “Recently, there were Youth Congress and local bodies elections in Maharashtra. We wanted to bring together all the new representatives and heads. The meetings Mr. Gandhi had were not a one-way affair. There was a dialogue, and each meeting had a different aim. The tour is not held in the context of elections.”

‘Nothing to do with polls'

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Manikrao Thakre said the 2014 polls were two years away. “Organisational work for the party is not limited to elections. Mr. Gandhi's tour has nothing to do with the polls. He is paying attention to Maharashtra, and he has been interacting with workers all over the country.”

Asked about Mr. Gandhi's views on the party's position, Mr. Chavan said: “He did not say that we are weakening. He said the party was weak in five or six districts, and we need to focus on them.”

While the party workers raised concerns about the NCP, Mr. Gandhi “did not comment,” he said.

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