Mumbai, March 2: The ugly rift in the Maharashtra state unit of the Congress came out in the open on Saturday when elected members and office-bearers vented their frustration against the state administration under the leadership of Chief Minister Prithvirah Chavan in front of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Maharashtra PCC chief Manikrao Thakre and AICC secretary in-charge of the state Mohan Prakash also drew flak with rivals accusing them of plotting against the CM.
Gandhi arrived in Mumbai on Friday to discuss strategies with Mumbai Congress leaders to strengthen the organisation before the next parliamentary and assembly elections but the occasion turned out to be one to settle personality clashes. Gandhi had driven straight to the party headquarters at Tilak Bhavan in Dadar where he talked with 300 people from six city units, including ministers, MPs, MLAs, councillors and office-bearers for six hours. It was then when complaints started to pour in on various issues.
Supporters of Varsha Gaikwad, the women and child welfare minister, complained against slow progress in slum redevelopment in Dharavi while some others said that the presidential post in Mumbai Congress remained vacant for a year since the resignation of Kripashankar Singh while corporations and committees were also to see important appointments to be made.
When Gandhi called up the CM and asked him to respond, the latter said the grievance about slum development was understandable but he could not agree to ask a private developer to look after the slum. He said he wanted government agencies to undertake the work so that the government could earn some revenue through it. He found support in some party members.
Mumbai vice-president Vasant Nanavare , while speaking in an emotional state, said it was difficult to accept Mohan Prakash, the man who allegedly abused leaders like Indira and Rajiv Gandhi throughout, as the Maharashtra in-charge. He suspected it to be a ploy to oust Chavan. Some others also backed Nanavare by accusing Prakash and Thakre of joining a conspiracy against Chavan. They said it was evident in the way in which Friday's meeting was called at Tilak Bhavan and not the Mumbai Congress office at CST.
Former Union minister and ex-Mumbai chief Gurudas Kamat did not attend the meeting and his supporters said that he was not given a decent invitation by the party. The claim clearly left the CM look perturbed.
Other MPs and MLAs said if the administration continued to perform poorly, then they would face problems in their respective constituencies.
The Congress vice-president also spoke with the local leaders over the drought situation in the state. He said the state government was dealing with the situation in an appreciable way, adding that each party worker should contribute in some capacity. He said he would visit the drought-affected parts of the state in near future.