Urmila Matondkar’s exit is least of the worries for Congress in Maharashtra

Assembly election in Maharashtra is due in October. The Devendra Fadnavis government is seeking re-election while the Congress must be hoping to return to power in the state. But the two parties are a study in contrast on the eve of Maharashtra polls. The BJP is looking to consolidate its hold, the Congress is losing its leaders in the state, the latest being Urmila Matondkar.

Urmila Matondkar had a very short but troubled stint in the Congress after making debut in politics ahead of the Lok Sabha election. She contested from North Mumbai constituency only to lose to Gopal Shetty of the BJP. She wrote a letter to Milind Deora, then Mumbai Congress chief who later resigned.

The letter was leaked to media, which upset Urmila Matondkar, who complained that instead of taking action against people and addressing issues that led to defeat of the Congress in the polls and weakened the party, the state leadership was fanning groupism and infighting.

Her exit from the party earlier this week led to fresh round of infighting involving Milind Deora and former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who is said to have brought Urmila Matondkar in the Congress party. He, in fact, vacated his parliamentary constituency for Urmila Matondkar.

But Urmila Matondkar’s exit is the least of the worries for the Congress. Urmila Matondkar was not a grassroots leader. She only added star power to the Congress party and was inducted to galvanise party workers, who were losing faith in the local leadership’s ability to taken on the well-oiled political machinery of the ruling BJP.

There are a host of the Congress leaders, who are stalwarts in their own constituencies, but waiting to switch over preferably to the BJP and, if not possible, to its ally the Shiv Sena. BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had mocked the Congress as well as the NCP recently at a public rally in Maharashtra saying their leaders are just waiting for the BJP to open its doors.

“If the BJP opens its door completely, except Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan, no one will remain in their respective parties,” claimed Amit Shah on September 1 in Solapur attending a rally of the Mahajanadesh Yatra (grand-mandate tour) launched on August 1 by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The flight of leaders from the Congress to the BJP has been unabated in Maharashtra. Soon after the Lok Sabha election, the Congress suffered a huge setback when former Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil joined the BJP. This had followed his son Sujay Vikhe-Patil quitting the Congress and winning the parliamentary polls as the BJP candidate from Ahmednagar.

Then Congress president Rahul Gandhi welcomed actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar in the party in March this year. (File photo)

Another senior Congress leader Abdul Sattar quit the party and joined the BJP. Priyanka Chaturvedi, who was one of the vocals spokespersons of the Congress, quit the party to join the Shiv Sena. Recent reports suggest that there are more than half-a-dozen grassroots politicians and MLAs of the Congress are negotiating with the BJP.

Senior Congress leader and former state minister Harshvardhan Patil, Anandrao Patil, Kripashankar Singh and his son Narendra Mohan Singh are said to be waiting for a green signal from Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil to make the switchover.

All these leaders have blamed infighting in the Mumbai and Maharashtra Congress. This was well summed up by Urmila Matondkar in her statement after resignation wherein she said the state Congress leaders “are either unable or not committed to bring about a change and transformation in the organisation for betterment of the party.”

Acknowledging the problem of infighting, Balasaheb Thorat, the president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, appealed to the party workers to end infighting an put up a united front against the BJP.

“The party faced similar troubles in 1978,79 and 80. But we won. The Congress is still in the minds of common people and we have to reach out to them with new vigour,” said Thorat hoping the party would regain composure before the election schedule is announced.

In contrast, both the BJP and Shiv Sena are have completed one round of state-wide election campaign galvanising their party workers. Fadnavis has made several announcements aimed at reaching out to potential voters left out of various schemes of the government.

These include the farmers of Marathwada and Vidarbha, who had been left out of the previous loan waiver scheme. Fadnavis announced additional housing loan for leprosy-affected people and a 10 per cent quota in MBBS colleges to those youths willing to work in rural areas.

Come October, the Congress may actually be facing a stronger BJP while its own organisation is losing muscle and the resultant flex.

Source – India Today