Ahead of the Mumbai civic body election next year, a Congress leader's comment on going it alone has sparked a rift in Maharashtra's ruling coalition. Both the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have reacted sharply to state Congress chief Nana Patole's comments.
"A friend in the Maha Vikas Aghadi, state Congress Chief Nana Patole, said that he will contest the elections alone. They will be part of the government but will contest elections alone. You can contest elections. Then the remaining two parties will think about what they will do together in the future," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said today, raising the possibility of the Sena and Sharad Pawar's NCP joining forces in the civic polls, leaving the Congress to a solo fight.
Nana Patole had made the remarks on Monday, apparently upset at NCP leader Sharad Pawar praising the Shiv Sena. He implied that the Congress had not been given its fair share in the coalition that came to power in 2019. "Congress will contest the Maharashtra assembly elections alone. I am ready to be the Chief Ministerial face if the high command decides," the Maharashtra Congress chief was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
"Congress is the original party. We don't need anybody's certificate. Even if somebody is sidelining us, that doesn't mean Congress will be sidelined. Congress will only remain the top party in Maharashtra by 2024," Mr Patole said.
Soon after, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP snubbed Mr Patole and said: "Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, NCP president Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray have the final say on the state elections. Therefore, if someone is making a statement, it does not matter."
The Maharashtra election is three more years away but ahead of polls in February to the civic body BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), the remarks have caused strain in the coalition. There is speculation that the Sena and NCP may contest together as Sharad Pawar's party has limited presence in Mumbai. For the Congress, it is different in civic polls as it has greater presence in Mumbai and may have trouble in seat-sharing.
An editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana on Thursday slammed the Congress comments, saying that at a time the state is battling Covid and the row over Maratha quota, "some people have got into the mode of politics, elections and over-confidence".
"Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole is a grassroots leader. Now he too has said he will come to power in Maharashtra on his own by contesting the upcoming elections. He will bring the party to power and will be a Congress Chief Minister - he has made such an announcement with overconfidence. There is no confusion in his mind on who will be Chief Minister," the editorial said scathingly.
It was "clear" from Nana Patole's statements that he will not rest until he sits on the throne of Maharashtra, the editorial noted caustically.
"Parliamentary democracy is a game of majority. Those who win the game will sit on the throne. There is nothing wrong in desire and ambition in politics. But in the end, if you don't have the majority, then what will walking and talking do?" -- the Sena editorial said.
Citing former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's pronouncements of returning to power, the Sena pointed out that he could not win a majority.
"So no one should claim 2024 from now on. Nana Patole's party is in power in Maharashtra. Congress is an important component in Maha Vikas Aghadi," said the editorial.