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Congress should have been more astute in choice of candidates for RS polls, says Sena’s Sanjay Raut

Urges Congress to get its act together, says ‘non-BJP opposition cannot move forward without Congress’

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Mumbai: As resentment brews within the rank and file of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) over the party high command’s choice of Rajya Sabha (RS) candidates, Shiv Sena chief spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said that the Congress ought to have taken “astute and cautious steps” for the RS polls on June 10. He further remarked that without the Congress, opposition parties in the country could not move forward. 

Speaking to newspersons in Pune on Wednesday, Raut, who is one of two Sena candidates in the elections to the Upper House, said that the party high command had been fielding candidates from outside the state for some time now which had a demoralizing effect on regional leaders and cadres. 

The senior Sena leader remarked, “For many years, the Congress (high command) has been sending ‘outsiders’ (instead of local candidates) …The Congress in Maharashtra has a number of capable and excellent leaders. While it (choice of RS candidates) is the Congress’ internal matter, nonetheless, looking at the country’s political situation at the present time, the Congress ought to have taken steps in an astute and cautious manner.”  

Asked to comment upon the local Congress being upset over the choice of Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Imran Pratapgarhi being fielded from Maharashtra, Raut further remarked, “Certainly, such decisions have a demoralizing effect on local leaders… There is no shortage of capable leaders within the Maharashtra Congress. Even in Congress-ruled states like Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, candidates from outside have been fielded for the Upper House.” 

Refuting suggestions that the Shiv Sena did not want the Congress in Mumbai city, Raut said that the Sena has always advocated the need for a strong Congress, while urging the grand old party to get its act together. 

Raut further added, “We need the Congress. We (Sena) have always believed that opposition parties cannot move forward (against Bharatiya Janata Party) without the Congress. The Sena has always been urging the Congress to improve its political health,’” said Raut. 

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress share power in the ideologically opposed ruling ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) coalition in Maharashtra. 

Raut’s remarks come against the backdrop of recent criticism by Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Nana Patole, who had sternly rebuked the Sena for drawing up the three-ward system for the upcoming municipal corporation elections in Maharashtra without allegedly consulting the Congress as the arrangement would only benefit the Sena in the high-stakes Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election.  

When questioned about Patole’s ‘Congress will go it alone’ refrain, Raut said he hoped all three parties would fight the civic polls together. “Congress is a national party. It is easier for them to utter this refrain. But it remains to be seen how much success they achieve if they contest alone,” he added. 

Lashing out at the BJP ruled Centre, Raut expressed concern that it would deploy central agencies to win even the RS polls while remarking that the Centre could well declare martial law like Bangladesh and Pakistan to crush the opposition. 

The senior Sena leader further remarked, “The present political climate in the country is not conducive for democracy. Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are unleashed on anyone who opposes the central government. The manner in which Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Minister Satyender Jain was arrested in an eight-year-old case is recent proof of this. Jain was the AAP’s in-charge for the Himachal Pradesh election. The BJP considered him a threat and hence, the ED was deployed against him.”

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