All is not well in Maharashtra Congress. And the infighting has led to a political turmoil now, when one of the senior-most leaders and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) chief Balasaheb Thorat has shot off his resignation letter to the party high command, saying he can’t work with state unit president Nana Patole anymore.
In an exclusive interview with CNN News18, Balasaheb Thorat said, “I do not want the party to suffer due to infighting. That’s why I have written a letter to the party high command discussing some issues that need to be addressed." Known to be a man of few words, Thorat has not yet spoken about the controversy with anyone.
His letter, along with his resignation, has caused a political earthquake in Maharashtra.
“I want to keep working for the party. I will continue to work for Congress and I have also appealed to my constituency, my voters, and my party workers to stay loyal to Congress," he said, dismissing rumours and speculation about any offer from the BJP. “Where is the question of leaving Congress? If there are problems in your house or your family, do you leave your family?"
The Bharatiya Janata Party gave a cautious reaction too. “It is the Congress’s internal matter. We haven’t given any offers to anyone. But I want to say that our doors are open. And we will give proper respect to senior politicians of such stature," Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule told CNN-News18.
Thorat is not known for being outspoken. He is a party loyalist who belongs to a family that has been with the Congress for the last three generations. Sources close to Thorat said he was extremely hurt by the personal attacks and the targeting by Maharashtra Congress president Patole. “He wrote the letter as well as the resignation on February 2. He did not speak about it to anyone for so many days. The letter was leaked from Delhi," sources close to Balasaheb Thorat said.
Though the leader took into confidence the MLAs close to him, he also told them that he would continue to work for the party without any position.
The immediate trigger for such a huge step was the social embarrassment caused during the recent Vidhan Parishad elections when Thorat’s nephew and Congress loyalist Sudhir Tambe’s son Satyajeet Tambe was denied Congress candidature, and was instead publicly humiliated. Satyajeet claimed that it was a conspiracy to finish his political career.
“But what upset Balasaheb Thorat was the way he was dragged into the controversy. He was recovering from a serious shoulder injury in Mumbai. The ticket was to be given to either Sudheer Tambe or to Satyajit Tambe. Till the last minute, the correct AB form was not sent for Satyajeet. Instead, personal attacks were made against him," sources close to Thorat told CNN-News18.
This would later prompt embarrassing public altercations between two factions of the Congress, leading to the circulation of WhatsApp screenshots of personal conversations to prove their point.
Satyajeet Tambe finally filed his nomination as an independent candidate. This would lead to a loss for the Congress as Tambe ultimately won the seat.
“In the meantime, Nana Patole also dismissed the entire executive committee of the Congress unit of Ahmednagar. This is a personal setback for Thorat as it is his constituency. The committee has over 150 members. As party workers and loyalists got upset due to this, a senior leader like Thorat had to take a stand," a leader close to him said.
What has also upset many Congress leaders including Balasaheb Thorat is the brash way of functioning of the Maharashtra unit president. This isn’t the first time someone has complained about Patole to the party high command. “If you are the state party president, is it not your responsibility to take everyone together, to mend fences, to bring leaders together? If you fail to do that, people get hurt and that doesn’t help the party," a leader said.
Patole claimed that he wasn’t aware of the resignation letter. When asked what he would do as the state party president now, he said he would act as per the party high command’s instructions.
Sources told CNN-News18 that top Congress leaders are in constant touch with Thorat to try to pacify him.
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