Congress furious as Sena (UBT) announces candidates for Sangli, 3 Mumbai seats

Balasaheb Thorat
Balasaheb Thorat

Mumbai | The Shiv Sena (UBT) left Congress seething on Wednesday after it announced its first list of 17 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, with the ally saying talks were still on for Sangli and three Mumbai constituencies.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has named wrestler Chandrahar Patil for Sangli, Anil Desai for Mumbai South Central, Sanjay Dina Patil for Mumbai North East and Amol Kirtikar for Mumbai North West seats.

Congress Legislature Party leader Balasaheb Thorat and Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra assembly Vijay Wadettiwar asked their MVA partner to reconsider its decision, stressing that it did not suit “coalition dharma”.

Their party colleague Sanjay Nirupam, who was keen to contest from Mumbai North West, said those who agreed to the seat-sharing formula were preparing to bury the Congress in Mumbai. Nirupam said he was prepared for a “friendly fight” in the constituency.

Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) constituents Congress, Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) have been holding seat-sharing discussions for the 48 constituencies in Maharashtra, where the Lok Sabha polls will be held in five phases starting April 19.

Amid the talks, Sena (UBT) earlier in the day released its first list of 17 candidates for the upcoming elections and said it will contest a total of 22 seats in the state.

Congress has been demanding three of the six seats in Mumbai – North West, North Central and South Central.

Thorat said the announcement was not right. "Everyone must follow coalition dharma. Shiv Sena (UBT) must reconsider its decision," said the senior Congress leader.

He said the Congress is still firm on contesting from Sangli, Bhiwandi and Mumbai South Central. "Unfortunately, coalition dharma hasn't been followed," he said, adding that his party’s state unit has apprised the central leadership of the developments.

Wadettiwar said the decision by the Sena (UBT) had stained coalition principles.

State leader Vishwajeet Kadam met All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary K C Venugopal and party president Mallikarjun Kharge in Delhi and urged them to ensure that Sangli, a traditional Congress seat, was retained by the party.

Adopting a more belligerent stand, Nirupam slammed his party leadership for allowing Sena (UBT) to grab most seats in Mumbai.

Talking to reporters, Nirupam said "all options were open" before him.

"I will wait for a week and then take a decision," he said.

Nirupam, who is keen to contest the Mumbai North West parliamentary constituency, said the party leadership hasn't got in touch with him in the last fortnight.

"The leadership isn't bothered that injustice is being done to its leaders and workers. Shiv Sena (UBT) is making us bend and we are doing it," he said.

Nirupam criticised Sena (UBT) for declaring its candidates in four out of six seats in Mumbai. "It is likely that the candidate for the fifth seat will also be declared tomorrow," he claimed.

He alleged that attempts are being made to "bury" the Congress in Mumbai and the party will pay a price for it. "I give my leaders a week's time to decide," he said.

Nirupam claimed that the Sena (UBT) has given the ticket in Mumbai North West to an accused in an alleged scam during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I will not campaign for such a candidate. Didn't the congress leadership which speaks against corruption realise this," he asked. The Sena (UBT) has nominated Amol Kirtikar, son of Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar who owes allegiance to CM Shinde-led Sena, from Mumbai North-West.

Sena (UBT) is likely to field a candidate in Mumbai North as well, leaving only Mumbai North Central for the Congress in the megapolis.

Meanwhile, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena mocked the MVA over the development, saying a “gang war” has started in the opposition alliance after Sena (UBT) went ahead with its list.

Maharashtra Industries Minister and Sena leader Uday Samant said “the opportunistic alliance formed for power” lacks harmony even during elections.

“Maha Vikas Aghadi is an alliance formed only out of greed for power. Even during their tenure in power, there was a lack of cohesion within the Maha Vikas Aghadi, and there was no consensus even while contesting elections,” Samant said.

Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar called the announcement of Sena (UBT) candidates the “first step towards defeat” .

“The manner in which the UBT group has treated Congress, the Congress has realised that the Uddhav Thackeray outfit is a balloon filled with arrogance,” he said.

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