Season of rifts in Maharashtra political parties

Mumbai | Updated: Jan 2 2006, 05:34am hrs
If theres one common thread that is running through political parties in Maharashtra, it is internal bickering and groupism.

The division between chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president, Prabha Rau, is growing by the day. On the other hand, Nationalist Congress Party, which is a part of the Congress-led government, is currently going through a phase where senior ministers and party leaders are caught up in a competition for being in the news by making some bombastic statement or other.

The saffron Shiv Sena, too, is a divided house. The party is yet to recover from the shock it received after the expulsion of the firebrand leader Narayan Rane, who joined the Congress party to become a minister, as also the recent decision by Raj Thackeray to quit the party, citing differences with partys executive president and Sena supremo Bal Thackerays son, Uddhav Thackeray. Sena leaders and grassroot activists are leaving the party to join either Raj Thackeray, who has already announced the launch a new party in January-February, or Mr Rane.

Then, Senas partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is also on the defensive after 11 of its MPs were expelled by the Lok Sabha for their alleged involvement in the cash-for-question scandal. The rising clout of Pramod Mahajan and partys group leader in the assembly, Gopinath Munde, is also a leading cause for the increasing dissent among RSS followers within the party.

The state BJP unit is in a quandary over whether to continue its 19-year old electoral alliance with Shiv Sena or partner with Raj Thackeray ahead of the elections to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation in 2007. The BJP is also worried that some of its legislators and district leaders may be lured by the NCP in the days to come.

Curiously, things are not hunky dory in the Congress as well. The loyalists within the state Congress party have challenged the leadership of Ms Rau and have tried to garner support from across the state. However, they have failed to garner sufficient support as Ms Rau has the blessings of Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, and partys in-charge for Maharashtra, Margaret Alva.

Besides, the growing importance of Narayan Rane is creating some dissent within the Congress. For Mr Rane, it will be an acid test to ensure that three of his supporters retain their seats in Rajapur, Sangmeshwar and Vengurla in the ensuing by-elections. Former Sena legislators, Ganpat Kadam, Subhash Bane and Shankar Kambli have resigned the party to join Congress. However, the NCP has decided to spoil the party as there has been rising demand from NCPs local units to contest the ensuing by-election to maintain the partys identity.

The final decision in this regard, however, would be taken by NCP supremo, Sharad Pawars.