MUMBAI: The Congress top brass has asked former MPs and Union ministers like Milind Deora, Sushil Kumar Shinde and other senior Congress leaders in Maharashtra to contest the forthcoming assembly polls. The move comes after reports of the Congress’ dismal position in the state and is being seen as the party’s attempt to mount a spirited challenge against the BJP and Shiv Sena.
Congress leaders said the ‘suggestion’ came last week after the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee was asked to prepare a list of leaders who would be contesting the polls. The names of Milind Deora, former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, former union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and others were given to the Congress screening committee to be considered for the Maharashtra assembly polls. Deora, Nirupam, Shinde and Vilas Muttemwar are being persuaded to contest the polls.
Congress leaders said the idea has not been received well. Sushil Kumar Shinde, for one, found it ‘ridiculous’, according to party sources.
Shinde had apparently told the party that he was even unwilling to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but contested it under party pressure.
Since his daughter Praniti Shinde is already contesting the polls, there is no question of him returning to state politics.Former MP from Nagpur, Vilas Muttemwar, initially told ET that his name was ‘not in the list’ but later said there was no question of him contesting as his son Vishal was contesting the assembly polls. “I don’t need to contest if my son is contesting because my involvement is there in his election campaign. I don’t know about the list, but the high command could probably be thinking that the involvement of senior leaders is important. However, in my case, my son will contest. So, I don’t need to,” Muttemwar said.
Shinde did not respond to comments. “I am not aware of any such list and I have not been asked by the party to contest the assembly polls,” said Nirupam. Deora told ET, “The party does not have a policy as far as I am aware. I am not interested in contesting the state elections,” Deora said.
Rajeev Satav, former MP from Hingoli, has also been asked to contest. Incidentally, Satav refused to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Sources said former MP Ashok Chavan, whose name was there in the list, has decided to contest from Nanded, although no one has spoken to him.
“Chavan suffered a shocking loss in Nanded and he anyways wanted his wife Ameeta to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He was interested in the assembly polls. So, him contesting the assembly polls is not a surprise,” a Congress leader said.
The MPCC has apparently also recommended the need for an alliance with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Samajwadi Party and is looking for a further tie up with smaller Dalit parties. According to a Congress leader, the party has decided to hold district-level programmes in each part of the state and would bring in leaders from the country to talk about unemployment and the economy. Also, the state is being divided region-wise and a leader from a particular region is being tasked with spearheading the campaign.
These leaders would be assisted by observers from Delhi.