Mumbai: The Maharashtra Congress, already beleaguered by factionalism, found itself in a sticky situation Thursday, when family members of its legislative party leader, Balasaheb Thorat, went against the party decision on candidate for the upcoming legislative council elections.
Sudhir Tambe, the official Congress candidate from Nashik, for the 30 January graduates constituency poll, did not file his nomination papers before the 3 pm deadline on the last day of nominations Thursday, making way instead for his ambitious son, Satyajeet Tambe.
Satyajeet, who did not have the Congress’ A and B forms, a key document for filing nomination, filed his candidature as an independent, without the party’s consent.
The rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been making overtures to Satyajeet, and has officially not fielded any candidate against him in the polls.
Party sources told ThePrint that Thorat, former state revenue minister and Satyajeet Tambe’s uncle, was caught unawares by the move and was “unhappy with the development”.
Thorat, who is currently recovering from an accident in a Mumbai hospital, did not respond to ThePrint’s calls. The copy will be updated if a response is received from him.
Speaking to reporters, Satyajeet said: “Owing to a technical problem, I have filed two nomination papers. I did not get the A&B forms from the Congress before the deadline for filing nominations. I will contest the election as an independent, but I will be a Congress and MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) candidate.”
He added, however, “I would ask all parties to support me. Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister) and other BJP leaders often speak about encouraging youngsters. Therefore, I will be meeting them and seeking their support.”
Sudhir Tambe, who has represented the Nashik seat for three terms, told reporters, “Satyajeet is a young leader and has different ideas. This position requires such leadership and hence we have filed his nomination. I don’t think our leadership will oppose his name.”
The Congress leadership has said they will look into the matter and take appropriate action.
“The official candidate of the Congress was Dr Sudhir Tambe. The Tambe family did not contact any senior (party) leader, neither from the state nor Centre. The high command will take appropriate action,” state Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe told ThePrint.
Congress state president Nana Patole added: “I will get information on what happened. This is not good, but I will be able to tell more after speaking with the party and will take a decision on what to do next.”
The Nashik graduates constituency is among the five graduates and teachers constituency seats that will go to polls on 30 January. Votes will be counted on 2 February.
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Differences within family
A Congress source, in the know of developments, said Thorat was surprised when Sudhir Tambe announced Thursday he would not contest the poll.
“Till morning, they (Tambe family) did not give any indication of what they had in mind, and Sudhir Tambe also did not tell Thorat anything. In the morning, Sudhir Tambe stopped taking Thorat’s calls,” said the source.
He added: “Balasaheb Thorat is unhappy with what has happened and this also gives out the message that all is not well within the family.”
Sudhir Tambe’s backing out at the eleventh hour and Satyajeet filing nomination in his stead as an independent may spell trouble for the Congress, as the BJP has been making overtures to the 39-year-old Satyajeet.
A month ago, during the launch of Satyajeet Tambe’s book Citizenville, Devendra Fadnavis had said, “I want to ask Balasheb (Thorat), how many days will you keep Satyajeet Tambe out? Even we have our eyes on him. We are here to get good people into our party.” The comment was made in the presence of Thorat.
The BJP has not given the A and B forms to any candidate either, so officially the party has no candidate for the Nashik constituency.
Hemant Desai, a political analyst, called the development a major setback for the Congress.
“The BJP had said there are many Congress-NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) leaders who would come into its fold for the upcoming elections. This development is a major setback for the Congress,” Desai said.
He added: “The fact that the BJP is able to make inroads into such families which have been with the Congress for decades, without anybody noticing, is a danger signal for the Congress going forward.”
Satyajeet Tambe, who is from Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, just like his uncle Thorat, has been in politics for over a decade and had also been a member of the Youth Congress and the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the party’s students’ wing.
He has twice served as vice president of the state Youth Congress and in 2018, was elected president of the unit.
Earlier, in 2014, he had contested the state assembly polls on a Congress ticket from Ahmednagar City, but lost.
In 2019, Satyajeet alleged in an interview that the Congress had failed to promote young leadership when Thorat was the Maharashtra Congress president between July 2019 and February 2021.
In 2020, as Maharashtra Youth Congress president, Satyajeet wrote to his uncle, who was still the state Congress chief then, claiming youth workers were being sidelined in many government committees.
After filing his nomination Thursday, Satyajeet said he would seek support from all parties, including the BJP.
When Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule was asked whether the party would support Satyajeet, he said, “We will think about it”.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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