Prabhash Dutta asked:
With an open-eye on the upcoming elections to the Maharashtra Assembly and the Lok Sabha, the Congress today played a community cards by appointing Manikrao Thakre, a Maratha, as Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief and Jayant Awale from dalit community as working president of the state PCC. The Congress leadership also appointed Gurudas Kamat as the chairman of the state campaign committee, while Kripa Shankar Singh was made new Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief (MRCC).
While Thakre belongs to powerful Kunbi Maratha community, Awale is a Dalit hailing from Kolhapur. By this twin appointments the Congress party is hoping to attract both Maratha and dalit voters, who together constitute major vote plank in the state.
Kamat, an MP from Mumbai, on the other hand has been given the campaign responsibility after his successful stint as MRCC chief. He had won all but one Lok Sabha seats from Mumbai during the last general elections. Kamat has been replaced with a migrant from Uttar Pradesh to counter Thackrey brand of anti-north India politics.
The appointments to the state PCC were filled with political permutations and combinations and did not go without opposition and lobbying. While Thakre came as a replacement for Prabha Rau, who has been appointed as the Governor of Himachal Pradesh, Kamat came up after refusal by not-so-happy power centre of Congress’ state politics Narayan Rane. Kamat’s is a key post keeping in view the imminent elections.
Sources in Congress have confirmed that Narayan Rane was the first choice of the Congress leadership and was offered the post of the state campaign chief but the Deputy Chief Minister, who has been operating ‘remove Vilasrao Deshmukh’ campaign, was reluctant to shoulder the responsibility. He is reportedly not ready to work in coordination with the Chief Minister.
The latest appointments are being seen as a boost and victory for Deshmukh who had a major conflict with the now Governor of Himachal Pradesh. Deshmukh visited Delhi at least twice in past one week pleading Congress president Sonia Gandhi for effecting requisite changes in the state Congress committee.
It has also been learnt that the Maharashtra CM would be holding meetings with Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel and veteran leader Margaret Alva in few days from now to finalise appointments on various corporations in the states.
Deshmukh is also expected to put it across during the meetings that there was an urgent need to conclude seat-sharing talks with NCP as soon as possible. He has been asking for constitution of a committee for the purpose. He has been a supporter of permanent alliance with the NCP and instrumental in keeping the Congress-NCP alliance intact in the state. NCP is also sharing power with Congress at the Centre for past four years.