The Eknath Shinde government is mired in corruption, and discontent is growing among people, says Congress leader and former Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, 67. He says equal treatment of coalition partners is key to a strong showing in the Lok Sabha election.
Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to Parliament. How confident are you about the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) prospects in the Lok Sabha poll?
The MVA is a formidable force. Though some people left our coalition partners — Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar, and Shiv Sena [UBT] — the masses support Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray. Currently, for the BJP, even a corrupt leader becomes a holy cow when he??joins forces with it. People will give their reply in the election to the BJP for its horse-trading tactics.
Are you referring to NCP president Ajit Pawar while talking about corruption?
Yes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had levelled corruption allegations against Ajit Pawar before he joined forces with the BJP. Not just in Maharashtra, the BJP engages in corrupt politics nationwide, acting as a washing machine for turncoat leaders.
What is your view on the Congress’s organisational strength and internal rivalries?
The Congress is a democratic party. There may be differences of opinion, but no rivalry.?We are working?to revive the party in the State. We have conducted six massive divisional meetings??involving leaders up to the booth level.?Maharashtra is a stronghold for the Congress and We want to win the maximum seats from the State in the Lok Sabha election.
With splits in the Sena and NCP, will the Congress lead the MVA?
We won’t adopt a ‘big brother attitude’. Everyone in the coalition will be treated equally. With 40 years of experience of coalition governments in Kerala, I believe equal treatment is crucial for success.
How far have talks with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) progressed?
Discussions are going on with the VBA and I’m confident Mr. Ambedkar will align with a secular force like the MVA.
How many seat swill your party be contesting in the State?
Winnability will be the main criteria while deciding the seats. Discussions with allies are going on and a final decision will be taken in a few days. All poll surveys are in our favour as the political situation in Maharashtra is favouring the MVA. The current Eknath Shinde government is mired in corruption. It is ‘contractor-friendly’.?The dissatisfaction among people is growing.
Are you going to ask senior leaders to contest in the Lok Sabha poll?
The decision on it will be taken by the Congress high command and?the party election committee. The first meeting of the poll panel will be held on February 17 and it will outline our election strategies.?
Will a member of the Gandhi family contest from Maharashtra?
Every State is asking this, but it will be decided by the high command. I cannot decide this.?
Senior Congress leaders like Milind Deora and Baba Siddique have left ahead of the poll. Will it have an impact?
Certainly not. While they may have left, the cadre remains intact. Grassroots workers are with the Congress. The Narendra Modi government is attempting to break the INDIA bloc, a formidable force that can form the government at the Centre.