Maharashtra Congress racked by factionalism

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A majority of Congress MLAs in Maharashtra have accused Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of ignoring them and neglecting the party's interests, reports say.

Prithviraj Chavan

In a letter sent to the state Congress chief Manickrao Thackeray, the MLAs rued that the CM hardly meets them. They further wrote that Chavan, who is in charge of Urban Development, has not sanctioned several projects which the MLAs feel are vital for the development of their constituencies.

The MLAs are considered to be loyal to two of Chavan's predecessors namely Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan. Incidentally, the latter is under the CBI's scanner in the Adarsh scam.

The CM has already created many enemies. Some of the steps he has taken since assuming office in Nov 2010 negatively impacted influential builders and corrupt officials. No wonder they are gunning for him.

The Nationalist Congress Party is also unhappy over Chavan's style of functioning especially his failure to hold consultations with its leaders on "important" issues.

Sharad Pawar has repeatedly slammed the CM and his team for not coming up with effective policies. Each time the Union Agriculture Minister conveniently forgets that his party is very much a part of the state government and as such shares equal responsibility with the Congress for the mistakes.

Recently Chavan announced that a white paper on the massive corruption in irrigation projects will be brought out soon. If the CM keeps his promise, two NCP leaders would be in the firing line.

One is Sunil Tatkare, the current irrigation minister, while the other is Pawar's nephew Ajit, the state's Agriculture Minister for 10 years. A nervy NCP is obviously not too happy about Chavan continuing in his post.

The situation at the Centre is more interesting. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not give Pawar the No 2 position in his cabinet after Pranab Mukherjee's exit (to contest the Presidential elections), the NCP suddenly started talking about the lack of coordination among parties in the UPA.

For Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the NCP's tantrums mean a fresh headache. After the belated decision of the Trinamool Congress to back Pranab in the race for Raisina Hill, she was thinking that there will be no more 'ally trouble' for the time being.

A sulking Pawar has dashed her hopes. Even if the coalition partners manage to finally resolve their differences, Chavan will still be on a sticky wicket in Maharashtra due to the factionalism in the Congress.

And to compound problems for the central government, Samajwadi Party made it clear that they will not allow FDI in multi-brand retail. With the Left parties and the JD(S strongly opposing the same, big ticket reforms in the near future seem unlikely.

One thing is for sure. The Congress leadership will not be able to breathe easy as long as they cohabit with recalcitrant outfits. Mamata Banerjee does not like oil companies hiking the petrol price by just 70 paise.

On its part, the DMK wants the new President Pranab Mukherjee to accept the mercy pleas of those convicted for conspiring to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. Alongwith the NCP, both these parties can make life difficult for the beleaguered Congress.

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