Congress Prepared in 22 of 48 Lok Sabha Seats in Maharashtra, Say Party Sources

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Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with leaders Rahul Gandhi and KC Venugopal at the party's foundation day rally in Nagpur on December 28, 2023. (PTI)

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with leaders Rahul Gandhi and KC Venugopal at the party’s foundation day rally in Nagpur on December 28, 2023. (PTI)

At a meeting with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leaders from Maharashtra are also said to have expressed their displeasure at Shiv Sena-UBT leader Sanjay Raut publically announcing that his party wants 23 seats in the Lok Sabha election seat-sharing

The Congress is prepared to field candidates in 22 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, sources told News18 following a meeting between party president Mallikarjun Kharge and top state leaders.

The meeting was held on Friday, a day after the grand old party sounded the 2024 poll bugle on its 138th foundation day in Nagpur with Hain Taiyyar Hum (We Are Ready) as its campaign slogan.

At the meeting, Congress leaders from Maharashtra discussed the state’s current political scenario with Kharge and gave him a presentation on the party’s stronghold constituencies. According to sources, some leaders suggested that the Congress should contest 30 seats in the state in Lok Sabha elections, to which another section of leaders asked if the party has identified these many candidates.

One of the top leaders then suggested that the party should contest a maximum of 22 seats where it stands a good chance of winning, sources said.

Party insiders told News18 that the issue of seat-sharing with the Sharad Pawar faction of the NCP and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena-UBT was also discussed. Leaders are said to have pointed to Kharge that neither allies are in complete control of their traditional election symbols following Ajit Pawar’s rebellion in the NCP and Eknath Shinde’s split in the Sena.

Since the Congress is the only alliance partner in the trio that can contest on its well-established ‘hand’ symbol, some leaders explained to Kharge that the Congress would have to compensate on this front for its allies. Sources say Kharge and the state leaders the possibility of exchanging a few seats with the allies depending on the situation in each constituency.

Leaders are also said to have expressed their displeasure at Shiv Sena-UBT leader Sanjay Raut publically announcing that his party wants 23 seats in the Lok Sabha election seat-sharing. Kharge, meanwhile, advised party leaders from Maharashtra not to make any such statements about the alliance or seat sharing.

The Congress high command is scheduled to meet the Shiv Sena-UBT and NCP’s Sharad Pawar faction next week to take a call on the seat-sharing formula.

In the 2019 general elections, the Congress had contested 25 seats but won just one seat. The NCP had contested 19 seats and won four, whereas the united Shiv Sena, which was in alliance with the BJP then, contested 23 seats and won 18.

With the clock ticking for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and preparations taking shape for the party’s ‘Bharat Nyay Yatra’, the Congress is set to hold a series of high-level meetings.

The party has set up a five-member National Alliance Committee to facilitate seat-sharing talks with allies. The committee, formed last week, is headed by senior Congress leader Mukul Wasnik and has Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel, Salman Khurshid and Mohan Prakash as its members.

The first meeting of the party’s manifesto committee for the general elections, headed by former Union minister P Chidambaram, is scheduled to be held on January 4.

The ‘Bharat Nyay Yatra’ led by Gandhi will start from Manipur in the east on January 14 and conclude in Mumbai in western India in March. It will cover 14 states and 85 districts.

The march will traverse through Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Leaders from other INDIA bloc parties are also expected to join the yatra, though the plans are yet to be finalised.

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