A tussle among senior Congress leaders over a Dalit candidate has held back the party’s list for nominations to the legislative council in Maharashtra, people familiar with the development said.
There are 12 vacancies in the Maharashtra legislative council, the upper house in the state legislature, from the governor’s quota and each constituent of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) — the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress – will be nominating four candidates each.
Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Governor can nominate to the legislative council members having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art, cooperative movement and social service.
While the Shiv Sena and the NCP have finalised their respective lists, the Congress is still struggling to give final shape to its set of nominations and delayed the nominations.
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The Congress has finalised its three names – Rajni Patil, Sachin Sawant and Muzaffar Hussain – and is now trying to resolve its internal tussle over the fourth seat.
A Congress functionary said the party high command had vetoed the recommendations of the state unit after a section of Dalit leaders, including Maharashtra energy minister Nitin Raut, objected to the short-listing of Anirudha Dhonduji Wankar, an artist who contested the last year’s assembly elections from Chandrapur constituency as a candidate of the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).
The Dalit leaders have urged the Congress high command to reconsider the decision to nominate him to the legislative council since he was an “outsider” and had “frequently switched sides” claiming that he was in the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before joining the VBA.
The infuriated Dalit leaders have insisted that party loyalists only should be given the nomination and also threatened to resign if their concerns are overlooked.
The functionary further said Wankar’s nomination is being pushed by former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan while the party’s Scheduled Caste department, headed by Raut, had suggested the names of Rajendra Karwade and Ramesh Bagwe.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken the feedback from party in-charge HK Patil and state unit chief Balasaheb Thorat and asked them to also suggest few other names, he added.
While the Shiv Sena is said to have nominated actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar, who quit the Congress last year after losing the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North, as one of its candidates, the NCP has recommended the names of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Eknath Khadse, Dalit singer Anand Shinde, Dhangar leader Yashpal Bhinge and Raju Shetti, the head of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ organisation.