- Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat appointed as Maharashtra unit chief
- He is known to wield considerable influence over the farming community
- The appointment comes ahead of crucial assembly polls later this year
Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat was appointed as the president of the party's Maharashtra unit on Saturday, replacing Ashok Chavan in the wake of its drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The appointment of Mr Thorat, who is known to wield considerable influence over the farming community, also comes ahead of the crucial assembly polls later this year.
"The Hon'ble Congress President has approved the proposal of appointment of President, Working Presidents for the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee," the letter issued by Congress general secretary KC Venugopal stated, before going on to list Mr Thorat's name along with five others. But his reference to the Congress President raised eyebrows, indicating continuing confusion over Rahul Gandhi's resignation.
Rahul Gandhi had formally quit as the party chief on July 3 in a four-page letter, and asked the party's working committee to choose his successor. He had hinted at such a move soon after the Lok Sabha elections threw up a damning verdict for the Congress, allowing it just 52 seats across the country in comparison to the BJP's 303. Several attempts to hold him back went in vain.
However, a senior Congress leader clarified to NDTV that Rahul Gandhi remains the party president because the Congress Working Committee is yet to accept his resignation. "Also, the decision on these appointments was taken on June 27, when he met the leaders of all poll-bound states. So, these appointments were made with his approval," he said.
Like Rahul Gandhi, Ashok Chavan had also resigned a few days ago after taking moral responsibility for the party's worst-ever defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. "Chavan said he wished to be relieved of the post so that he can concentrate on Nanded, from where he was defeated," a senior party leader said.
The Congress won just one out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra while its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, managed four. The BJP and the Shiv Sena combine, on the other hand, bagged 41 seats in all.
The letter from Mr Venugopal also listed the names of five new working presidents, namely Nitin Raut, Baswaraj M Patil, Vishwajeet Kadam, Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur and Muzaffer Hussain. Besides this, KC Padavi was appointed as the legislative party leader in the Maharashtra state assembly. She succeeds Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who defected to the BJP recently.
(With inputs from Agencies)