The raging cold war within the Maharashtra Congress turned hot after senior Congressman and former State Minister Balasaheb Thorat reportedly resigned from his post as Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader following serious differences with Maharashtra Congress unit chief Nana Patole.
According to sources, Mr. Thorat, who had conveyed to the Congress high command about ‘internal politics’ plaguing the party in a recent letter, is believed to have submitted his resignation from the post of party leader in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly as well.
In his letter to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Mr. Thorat has reportedly alleged he was being ‘targeted’ and ‘humiliated’ by Mr. Patole during party meetings while apparently stating it was “impossible” to work with the MPCC chief.
Patole unaware of resignation
However, Mr. Patole on Tuesday clarified that he was not aware of any resignation or letter on Mr. Thorat’s part, stating that he had not been in communication with the latter.
“No such resignation has come [to me]…I have not been in touch with him. He does not speak to us. Today being his [Mr. Thorat’s] birthday, I wish him all the best and pray for his good health and success in his political career,” Mr. Patole said, conveying greetings to Mr. Thorat on occasion of the latter’s 70 th birthday.
Commenting on Mr. Thorat’s resignation as CLP, his brother-in-law Dr. Sudhir Tambe said it was “extremely unfortunate” as the former was a firm Congress loyalist.
“I have not yet spoken with him, but it needs to be asked why he was forced to take such a step,” said Dr. Tambe.
While it is no secret that the Maharashtra Congress has been riven by intense factionalism in the past few years, the immediate cause of the fresh crisis is the recent fiasco over the Nashik Legislative Council (MLC) poll, in which Mr. Thorat’s nephew — Satyajeet Tambe — won with a thumping majority while being allegedly ‘forced’ to compete as an Independent despite his wish to fight as a Congress candidate.
Prior to the MLC polls that were held on January 30, the Congress had been left red-faced over the Nashik graduates’ constituency seat when their official candidate – three-time MLC Dr. Sudhir Tambe (Satyajeet’s father) – apparently withdrew his nomination at the last minute which led to Satyajeet contesting as an Independent and announcing that he would seek the support of all parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As a result, the opposition ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ coalition (comprising of the NCP, Congress and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction) had propped another candidate (Shubhangi Patil) against Satyajeet, with Mr. Patole decrying the Tambe father-son duo as ‘rebels’ who had ‘deceived’ the party. The high command had accordingly initiated disciplinary action against the Tambes.
However, following his victory in the Nashik MLC seat, Satyajeet, in a tell-all press conference after the declaration of the final results (February 3), revealed that the party high command had left it to the Tambe family to decide on who among the father and son wanted to contest the Nashik seat.
Lashing out at Mr. Patole, Satyajeet Tambe had accused the MPCC chief of hatching “a conspiracy to defame” the Tambe family and his uncle, Mr. Thorat.
Brandishing ‘documentary proof’, Mr. Tambe claimed Mr. Patole had deliberately sent him the wrong ‘A-B’ forms (Form A and Form B denote that a certain candidate has been approved by a political party), thus forcing him to contest as an Independent from Nashik.
Mr. Tambe had further said that there was a calculated ploy (on Mr. Patole’s part) to “push” the Tambes and Mr. Thorat out of the Congress party and defame them by insinuating that they were consorting with the BJP.
Following his win, Mr. Tambe also surprised those expecting him to align with the BJP in lieu of their support during the Nashik poll by firmly stating that he would “remain an Independent.”
On Sunday, Mr. Thorat, recovering from a shoulder injury, thanked his supporters from his constituency Sangamner (in Ahmednagar district) in a video message, while remarking that the recent bout of internal party politics had “distressed” him.
“Satyajeet won by a huge margin [from the Nashik seat]and I congratulate him. However, there has been a lot of politics over the last few days and what happened in Nashik is distressing. I have conveyed this to the party high command. Some people spread misinformation about us and even said we were joining the BJP though the distribution of the latter’s seats was over. We have been following Congress ideology all our life and will continue to do so. But this is an internal matter which should not be discussed outside. I have informed the party leadership in Delhi about the entire episode and appropriate action will be taken,” Mr. Thorat said in his video message.
While State Congress leaders like former CM Ashok Chavan attempted to downplay the internal feud by stating there was “complete unity”, Mr. Patole hinted that the BJP was trying to sow divisiveness within other parties.
However, while the BJP expectedly criticized the Congress’ shoddy treatment of Satyajeet Tambe, the Congress’ ally – the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) – too ticked-off the party with Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut stating that Mr. Tambe had received a raw deal and had been treated unfairly.