North Nagpur MLA and Employment Guarantee Minister Nitin Raut appears all set to change the fortune of Congress in Vidarbha during the upcoming Assembly elections notwithstanding the shameful defeat in recently held Lok Sabha polls. The political circles in Maharashtra in general and Vidarbha in particular went agog with hot debate over sudden but positive change of stand by the very Congress leaders who till now were cold shouldering the demand for separate Vidarbha. Now, the Vidarbha Congress leaders, after witnessing a rout in Lok Sabha elections in which the party lost all 10 seats in the region and was decimated across Maharashtra as well with lowest ever tally, thought it wise to strike an emotional chord to recover the lost ground and save the sinking ship. And what would be the better strategy than touching the emotional separate Vidarbha demand issue and thereby ward off the Lok Sabha fate that is certainly staring the Congress leaders in their faces.
The EGS Minister Nitin Raut went for a “Lunch Diplomacy” with Congress MLAs hailing from Vidarbha amidst reports of an imminent change of guard at Chief Minister’s level. The talk that the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is being replaced virtually turned the Legislature the hot spot of political activities. And the “Lunch Diplomacy” politics by Raut is being seen as emergence of Pressure Group for Vidarbha Statehood demand.
On one hand, BJP is flying high after party’s resounding victory in the parliamentary elections while on the other hand; the morale of Congress MLAs is running low. They know one thing for sure: If the emotional issue like separate Vidarbha demand is not raised before the Assembly elections then the sinking of Congress ship is inevitable.
The Congress MLAs from Vidarbha at “Lunch Diplomacy” discussed a strategy by which they can recover the lost ground and also emerge victorious in the Assembly elections. However, Nitin Raut denied creation of any Pressure Group for separate Vidarbha demand by way of “Lunch Diplomacy” with the party MLAs.
No response at senior level
However, the political pundits construe the move by EGS Minister Nitin Raut and MLAs as nothing short of politics of pressure tactics just before the Assembly elections. The “Lunch Diplomacy” is a clear message to Congress High Command and Chief Minister: Draw a decisive line on the issue like separate Vidarbha demand and strike a perfect chord before the elections. But the Chief Minister has been refusing to budge. The powerful corridors of Legislature saw rumours over imminent ouster of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The talk focused on possible faces that could replace Chavan and names of Narayan Rane, Radhakrushna Vikhe Patil, Harshavardhan Patil and Balasaheb Thorat made rounds.
However, the Chief Minister Chavan himself refused to comment on the possible development but indications are that the high command is likely to go for a change of guard after June 20. The reason attributed for this date is the issue of Ashok Chavan’s paid news episode during Lok Sabha poll campaign. Paid news has been banned and the Election Commission is announcing its ruling on or before June 20. The Congress strategy would depend on the ruling.