Starting the process of reviewing election-preparedness of all State units ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress on July 11 announced that it will contest the election in Maharashtra as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance.
With 48 Lok Sabha seats, Maharashtra is second only to Uttar Pradesh in terms of strength in the House of the People in Parliament.
The review held in Maharashtra came barely a week after the split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a constituent of the MVA along with the Congress and the Uddhav Thaceray-led Shiv Sena faction.
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In the wake of the NCP split, engineered by Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Nana Patole dismissed speculation of a similar fate befalling the State Congress unit, remarking that these were rumours being spread by the BJP to divert public attention from real issues.
Asked if the Congress would claim the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) post in the Assembly as the party has emerged as the single largest Opposition party after the NCP split, Mr. Patole said a decision would be taken before the Assembly session gets under way on July 17.
The four-hour-long electoral strategy meeting, presided by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, was attended by former chief Rahul Gandhi, general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal and senior State leaders, including former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Milind Deora and Mr. Patole.
“We are very confident that the way in which the BJP is trying to demolish democracy in Maharashtra will have a big negative impact on the BJP. We are going to sweep the polls and we are going to fight as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi,” Mr. Venugopal told reporters after the meeting.
“The BJP, because of its politics of dividing political parties using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and money will have to pay a big price. People are ready to defeat them,” he added.
Taking to Twitter, Mr. Kharge said,“The BJP has hurt the self-respect of Maharashtra… The Congress party will give a befitting reply to this political fraud. The people of Maharashtra will give a strong political response to the continuous attacks on the mandate.” The Congress chief also stressed that leaders should work unitedly as a team and bury their differences.
In a Facebook post, Mr. Gandhi called Maharashtra a “bastion” of the party. “Our focus is on strengthening the Congress party there and raising the voice of the people. Together, we will ensure that this anti-people government is defeated,” he said.
A senior leader who was part of the closed door review said that Mr. Gandhi emphasised the importance of identifying new faces within the party, particularly among the youth.
“He expressed satisfaction with the party’s performance in the State and asked us to prioritise nurturing leaders who have the potential to contribute positively, rather than investing time in those who may be a liability,” the leader said, summarising Mr. Gandhi’s talking points. Mr. Gandhi is also said to have stressed the significance of fortifying the party’s internal foundation.
“We have done the groundwork in all the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies and whenever we have alliance, our partners gain strength from our work,” Mr. Patole told reporters.
The party announced that from September, a padayatra will be taken out in each Lok Sabha constituency under the leadership of a senior leader and a bus journey would be undertaken by senior leaders across all the districts of the State towards the end of the year.