Regardless of the seething discontent brewing among their grassroots leaders, last month, the Congress party and the NCP joined hands to fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Addressing a joint press conference, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that 56 parties have come together to support the alliance and take on the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.
The alliance arrived at a seat-sharing pact, according to which, Congress will be fighting on 26 seats while the NCP will field its candidates on the remaining 22 seats of the 48 Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra. This triggered the latent discontent among a few of the Congress leaders in Maharashtra who thought they were being unfairly treated by their alliance partner and were being betrayed by their own party. Some of the Congress leaders like Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had to grudgingly cede their traditional stronghold of Ahmednagar to NCP as per agreed seat-sharing pact.
The Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who resigned as LoP on Thursday was thoroughly miffed with his party’s decision to give Ahmednagar seat to NCP. His grievance with the Congress-NCP alliance started when his son Sujay Vikhe Patil was not allowed to contest the Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket from Ahmednagar and culminated with him seen campaigning for a Shiv Sena candidate in Shirdi. Sujay Vikhe Patil joined the BJP and is the Lok Sabha candidate from Ahmednagar. It is widely speculated now that Radhakrishna Patil too might soon join the BJP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Prior to this, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan was heard lamenting in an audio tape about the Congress party not respecting his views and expressing his displeasure over party’s chosen candidate for the Chandrapur Lok Sabha seat. Chavan also stated in the tape his desire to quit as his opinions were disregarded by the Congress party.
The Congress party in Maharashtra lacks a tall leader who can inspire its cadres and keep them united in the face of a strapping BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. The party leadership went into a coalition with Sharad Pawar’s National Congress Party(NCP) overlooking the suggestions and the pieces of advice tendered by its local leaders. As a result, the internal bickering among the leaders of the alliance partners has rendered the alliance ineffectual and impotent.
The Congress-NCP alliance has been left in total disarray as the rebellion among the disgruntled Congress leaders and their supporters is increasingly visible on ground in their election campaign. The rising distrust in Congress cadres against the candidates of their alliance partner NCP and an urge to get even with them is pushing them towards the opposition camp. While some are overtly switching over to BJP-Shiv Sena, others are displaying least concern in canvassing around for the alliance. Sharad Pawar’s nephew, Parth Pawar, has been caught in the crosshairs, as his rallies are going unattended, with senior leaders giving them a miss.
The vulnerable alliance between NCP and Congress was formed with a singular purpose of keeping BJP-Shiv Sena at the bay. However, in their endeavour to halt the BJP juggernaut, Congress and NCP leaders have set at nought the aspirations of their own leaders. As a consequence, instead of mounting a joint offence against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, the Congress party and the NCP started operating in silos, knowingly or unknowingly sabotaging the collective prospects of their alliance.