Congress on Backfoot

During the ongoing Monsoon Session of the State Legislature, Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance has come under a barrage of accusations made by the Opposition. Both the parties have been in the cross hairs of the Opposition over the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, the fire in the Secretariat (which is suspected of being deliberate), Jalgaon Housing Scam, Hiranandani Land Scam, the arrest of terrorist Abu Jundal, water scarcity, continuing female foeticide and the resignation of people’s representatives in Gadchiroli district. Also the Opposition was adamant on knowing why only Ashok Chavan has been named in the Adarsh Scam charge sheet and why two ex-Chief Ministers have been exempted in the charge sheet? Under heavy fire, the Prithviraj Chavan government has been cornered in the Legislature. Those who are especially targeted are Home Minister R.R. Patil, Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare, Transport Minister Gulabrao Devkar, Tribal Development Minister Babanrao Pachpute and Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
Moreover, the Congress is under much pressure from the supporters of Ashok Chavan who are unhappy with the way the Adarsh Scam issue is being handled and the party is petrified at the prospects of a mutiny. During a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, Prithviraj Chavan and State Unit President, Manikrao Thakre were pushed to the wall by the supporters of Ashok Chavan. They are furious over only their leader being named in the CBI charge sheet filed in the Adarsh Scam. Speculation is rife that the party High Command in Delhi is hell bent upon sacrificing Ashok Chavan while saving the skin of favourites Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde. Noteworthy is the fact that since Ashok Chavan has been mired in the scam, none among the Congress top brass has come out to defend him.
Apart from this the Opposition has trained its guns on the fire that recently broke out in the Secretariat (Mantralaya). The Opposition claims that the fire was deliberately caused to destroy evidence of corruption as of late instances of wrong doing had started coming out one after the other. Bharatiya Janata Party member and Leader of the Opposition, Eknath Khadse, has accused the government of letting files related to important matter be gutted in the fire. He is apprehensive whether the Crime Branch, which is leading the investigation in the fire, will delve into the matter. He said that being an arm of the state government, the Crime Branch is incapable of heading a fair investigation. He has asked for the investigation to be handed over to an independent agency. Vinod Tawde of BJP has raised the pitch for filing a case of culpable homicide against the government with regard to the people who lost their lives in the fire.

Speculation is rife that the party High Command in Delhi is hell-bent upon sacrificing Ashok Chavan while saving the skin of favourites Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde. Noteworthy is the fact that since Ashok Chavan has been mired in the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, none among the Congress top brass has come out to defend him.

The disarray and factionalism that have gripped the Maharashtra unit of Congress seems total. Party members are bandying allegations both in the party meets as well as in the public arena. The Congress seems like a divided house more than ever. Consequently, the leaders have openly expressed doubts regarding the possibility of returning to the Assembly the next time. Added to this is the frustration of the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) belonging to Vidarbha as the area continues to be the most backward in the state. Subhash Jhanak and Virendra Jagtap, to name just a couple, represent Vidarbha and have castigated their party leadership for the continued backwardness of the area. They see Vidarbha as a victim of the lackadaisical attitude of the government which has not been able to complete even a single irrigation project in the area.
There is a strong possibility that all these disgruntled elements within the party may come together, united in their grievances with the leadership and if this happens the new axis can do much damage to the Congress, both as an organisation and a political party.

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