Congress gears up for Maharashtra Assembly polls after strong Lok Sabha showing

Congress held a strategy meet presided over by Mr. Kharge with leaders Rahul Gandhi, K.C. Venugopal, Prithviraj Chavan, and others present to mull over the party’s prospects in Maharashtra

Published - June 25, 2024 10:26 pm IST - Mumbai

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and KC Venugopal during a review meeting on Maharashtra, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on June 25, 2024.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and KC Venugopal during a review meeting on Maharashtra, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on June 25, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Weeks after the Congress emerged as the single-largest party in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha election, the grand old party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge said on Tuesday that the country is now looking for change, and the Western State has clearly signalled this through the outcome of the recent results.

“Congress had made Maharashtra the most prosperous and developed state of the country. But, the BJP government has destroyed the industries and pushed the people into the vicious circle of unemployment and inflation. Farmers have been subjected to most injustice,” he said in Delhi, following a meeting with Maharashtra leaders to formulate the party’s strategy for the Assembly election, due later this year.

Former party chief Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal, AICC in-charge for Maharashtra Ramesh Chennithala, State leaders Nana Patole, Vijay Wadettiwar, Prithviraj Chavan, Vishwajeet Kadam, and others were present at the meeting, presided over by Mr. Kharge at the party’s headquarters in the national capital.

“We have to start preparing for the elections. This is our biggest responsibility. Today the leaders of Maharashtra Congress discussed the strategy for the upcoming assembly elections,” Mr. Kharge said, adding that in Maharashtra, the party fought the Lok Sabha election in completely adverse circumstances.

The meeting was crucial for Congress as it aims to refine its strategy, collaborate with its allies in the State, and oust the Mahayuti coalition of BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP from power. In the 18th Lok Sabha polls, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which includes the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (SP), secured 30 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The Congress alone has won 13 seats out of 17 that it had contested as part of the tie-up.

The success of MVA could pose challenges for the upcoming Assembly election, as Congress might demand a lion’s share of the 288 seats. In the Lok Sabha election, Mr. Thackeray’s Sena contested 21 seats but won nine. This has bolstered Congress’s bargaining power within the coalition.

Claiming that their party has deep roots in every part of the State, Mr. Venugopal said that all their leaders will work unitedly to ensure a decisive victory for the MVA in the Assembly election. “After a historic performance in the Lok Sabha, where the INC secured the most seats in the State, we are determined to further improve our performance and dethrone the illegitimately formed NDA government in Maharashtra,” he said.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Patole said that during the meeting, they decided to form a committee to facilitate a smooth seat-sharing arrangement, in contrast to the issues faced during the Lok Sabha election.

“Now, Congress will play a pivotal role. Our presence is extensive. We have agreed to establish a committee with our allies to discuss seat-sharing and prevent any confusion, unlike what occurred during the Lok Sabha election when Mr. Pawar and Mr. Thackeray announced their candidates without consulting us,” he said.

He clarified that there was no specific discussion on seat-sharing during the meeting as they have opted to form a committee for this purpose.

Another leader stated that Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi also endeavoured to resolve internal factions within the State unit. “The senior leaders also addressed internal conflicts, alongside discussing critical issues in the State such as farmer suicides and strategies to further strengthen the party,” he added.

A similar strategy session for Haryana is scheduled for Wednesday, and the meeting for Jammu and Kashmir, where the election date is pending, will be held on Thursday. The tenure of the Maharashtra and Haryana Assemblies ends on November 26 and November 3, respectively, while Jharkhand’s tenure ends on January 5, next year.

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