Maharashtra is a Congress state, MPCC should gear up for assembly polls: Chennithala

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Mumbai, Jun 7 (PTI) AICC in-charge of Maharashtra Ramesh Chennithala on Friday asked the state Congress to gear up for the assembly polls due in October after an impressive show in the Lok Sabha elections and said his party has the responsibility to strengthen the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

Addressing the newly-elected Congress MPs from the state, Chennithala asked them to stay tuned to the ground and maintained there is uncertainty over how long the incoming BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre will last.

The former Kerala minister noted coalition politics is all about cooperation and reciprocity and gave unity call to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"In a coalition there has to be give and take. There is no big brother in a coalition. Everyone needs to work unitedly to defeat the BJP," said the senior Congress leader, whose party is a key constituent of the MVA, which also consists of the NCP (SP) and the Shiv Sena (UBT).

The MVA won 30 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

Speaking on the occasion, senior Congress leaders expressed happiness over the party's performance in the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra, where it bagged 13 seats -- the highest by any outfit -- and asserted their next target is to win the assembly polls as part of the opposition bloc.

Chennithala said the Congress winning just one Lok Sabha seat in 2019 in Maharashtra, once the party's stronghold, was insulting.

"All those who have won now are first-time MPs as they were fielded after consulting block and district presidents," he pointed out.

He said in the upcoming assembly elections, grassroots cadres will be given prominence and added, "Maharashtra is a Congress state".

Citing the Lok Sabha poll results, where the BJP fell short of a simple majority, Chennithala claimed Narendra Modi doesn't have the moral right to take oath as PM again.

"We don't know how long the new government will last. All MPs must stay tuned to the ground," he said.

Congress rebel Vishal Patil, who won the Sangli Lok Sabha constituency as an independent, joined the newly-elected MPs of the party in Maharashtra at the state unit office in south Mumbai. With Patil extending support to the Congress, the party's effective seat tally in the state has gone up to 14.

Thirteen MPs-elect of the Congress and Patil were felicitated by Chennithala at Tilak Bhavan, the state unit headquarters.

Speaking on the occasion, senior Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde said from just one Lok Sabha MP in 2019 in the state, the party tally has gone up to 14 now (13 plus independent member Patil).

The former CM praised Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Nana Patole over the party's vastly improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls and said he led from the front in the state.

Shinde said Patole has given strength to the Congress in difficult times.

"Vishal Patil can never leave the Congress. He fought on the other side (against MVA candidate), but gave unconditional support to the party (after winning)," noted the former Union minister.

Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Vijay Waddetiwar said the Congress is the No.1 party in Maharashtra and added all party members and functionaries fulfilled the responsibility allocated to them in their respective regions.

"We will not rest till we win the assembly polls," he asserted.

Former CM Prithviraj Chavan said nobody thought the Congress will emerge as the single largest party in Maharashtra.

"We should be prepared for the next struggle of assembly polls. The elections will be fought under Congress leadership. A lot of developments are expected in the coming months," Chavan averred.

The NDA government will not have a smooth sailing in the third term, he claimed.

At the meeting, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Mukul Wasnik moved a resolution thanking party president Mallikarjun Kharge, senior leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for their support, and it was passed unanimously.

"The Congress contested 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, but bagged only one. But now the party is brimming with confidence after winning 14 seats," Wasnik averred.

Patole said the result was a victory of party workers who toiled hard during campaigning.

"Congress workers moved door-to-door to campaign for the party and explain guarantees made in the party manifesto," he said.

Rajya Sabha MPs Chandrakant Handore, Imran Pratapgarhi, senior leaders Nitin Raut and Naseem Khan worked to ensure there was no division of Dalit and Muslim votes, Patole pointed out.

Patole said the party will highlight the drought-like situation prevailing in 75 per cent areas of the state.

"All MPs should work to strengthen the party in their constituencies and highlight the misdeeds of the state government. We got only 17 Lok Sabha seats to contest in seat-sharing (with MVA allies) but won at maximum places. If we had got more seats, it would have further strengthened the MVA," the state Congress president noted. PTI MR RSY