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Congress MLAs ‘upset’ with own ministers within MVA, raise issue at meeting with Sonia Gandhi

28 MLAs from Maharashtra met Congress chief in Delhi, and some of them raised the issue of party's ministers not helping members on development works and access to finances.

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Mumbai: The Congress has often complained about feeling like a third wheel to the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra. And now, some Congress leaders have expressed unhappiness with the way their own party’s ministers in the MVA cabinet are representing them and fellow legislators in the alliance. They have asked for the party leadership to intervene.

On Tuesday, 28 Congress MLAs from Maharashtra met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, on the sidelines of a training programme for MLAs in Parliament.

Party leaders, including legislators who attended the huddle, said, while the meeting with Gandhi was more of a courtesy call, some of the MLAs raised the issue of Congress ministers not helping party members when it came to development works and access to finances.

“We spoke to Madam (Sonia Gandhi) about it, and we told her about what has been happening. She has understood the whole problem. She told everyone that she will discuss this with senior leaders of the party,” Kunal Patil, a two-time MLA from the Dhule rural constituency, told ThePrint.

Patil, however, added that there were no requests or talk of changing the Congress’ ministers in the MVA government.

The Congress has 12 members in Uddhav Thackeray’s council of ministers. Of the 12, 10 are cabinet ministers while two are ministers of state. Former Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat and former Congress CM Ashok Chavan are among the senior-most Congress ministers in the cabinet.

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Complaints of not getting work done, funds sanctioned

A senior Congress leader from Maharashtra who did not wish to be named said there is an underlying sentiment that ministers like Chavan and Thorat are not aggressive enough as Congress representatives in the cabinet.

“MLAs have spoken about their work in their constituency not getting done despite the Congress being a constituent of the government. Many also complain about how the Congress’ ministers are not able to effectively liaise with departments headed by alliance partners for various works in the constituencies of Congress MLAs,” the leader said.

In the two years and four months of the MVA government, leaders of the Congress — which is the smallest member partner in the coalition — have often complained of being sidelined within the government. Congress leaders have also voiced concerns about how departments held by their party members are not getting sufficient funds as compared to the departments held by the two other partners of the MVA.

In February, a delegation of Congress leaders reportedly met CM Thackeray to discuss these concerns.

Meeting with Sonia Gandhi long due

The main intention of Tuesday’s meeting was for several legislators to be able to meet the party leadership, which they had not had a chance to do since the Maharashtra assembly elections in 2019, multiple party leaders told ThePrint.

“We had a discussion on the sidelines of the Maharashtra budget session last month about wanting to meet the party leadership in Delhi when most of us were scheduled to go there for the parliamentary training. We sent a request by email as per protocol, and Sonia ji was happy to make time for us. She enquired about all of us, personally,” Ameet Zanak, Congress MLA from Risod, told ThePrint.

On the buzz about some legislators being dissatisfied with Congress’ ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet, Zanak said “there are some people, some within the party, some from rival parties, who only want to demoralise. Nobody is ever fully satisfied”.

(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)

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