Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief
Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief
PTI Photo

Notwithstanding the present COVID-19 crisis, the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is systematically pursuing its plan to consolidate its presence across Maharashtra and further strengthen coordination between the party and state government. As part of this exercise, 15 ministers of the party, comprising 11 cabinet and four ministers of state, from August 31 will devote two hours each per week at the party headquarters in Mumbai to interact with the rank and file as well as the members of the public and look into their grievances. NCP has named the proposed initiative Lok Samvad.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, a fortnight ago, had met these ministers and directed them to mingle with the rank and file, party office bearers and members of public so that issues related to the party organisation and also pertaining to their respective departments can be resolved. He has also asked ministers to regularly travel in their respective constituencies and districts along with the local office bearers to broaden the party base and pursue the completion of the ongoing development work or kick start the implementation of new projects.

Ministers have been asked to submit monthly reports of their department and organisational work. He has assigned Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state party chief Jayant Patil, who is the Water Resources Minister, to work out a strategy so that NCP cannot be termed as rural-centric or restricted to Western Maharashtra, but can increase its presence in Mumbai, Thane and also in tier II and III cities.

Pawar's close confidante and former legislator Hemant Takle said the party chief has travelled extensively to review the coronavirus pandemic and make suggestions to improve containment measures. He informed that NCP ministers have been touring not just in their own districts, but also in other districts to strengthen coordination among various agencies to combat COVID-19 and restore normalcy.

''However, the NCP chief expects the ministers to also address issues such as unemployment, farm distress, migration and the remobilisation of workers. Besides, students and various communities, including minorities, are passing through distress because of the economic downturn and lockdown. Ministers are expected to take up these issues and address them at the party and government level,'' said Takle.

Takle said the NCP proposes to extensively use social media, whereby the party can organise meetings on Zoom or Facebook between the minister and people from various districts. ''The aim is to reach out to a maximum number of people and give them confidence that NCP is there to help in good and bad times,'' he noted.

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