The manhandling of Rahul Gandhi by the UP Police and the central government’s agriculture and labour laws gave an opportunity to the Congress in Maharashtra to hit the roads, reach out to the people and revive the party. The state party unit protested against the UP Police’s behaviour against the Gandhi siblings. Being Gandhi Jayanti, it launched a statewide agitation against these two acts. State party chief Balasaheb Thorat, at Lasalgaon, launched a drive to collect 1 crore signatures against these laws. Meanwhile, almost all the party ministers in their respective districts led the agitation.
Though the Congress is Shiv Sena’s junior partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, it had been disappointed about the lack of share it had been receiving in the decisions and functioning of the government. The same was echoed by former party chief Rahul Gandhi and former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan who said that the Congress was not in the driver’s seat, but merely sharing power in Maharashtra.
During the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, Congress ministers were camping in their respective constituencies instead of exploiting the opportunity to travel extensively to convince the people that the Congress party’s hath (hand symbol) is sabke saath. This was quite visible as a section of the Congress legislators had to seek the intervention of the CM Uddhav Thackeray and DCM Ajit Pawar to get funds for development and activate district administration in combating the virus.
In addition, instead of mobilising the grassroots workers, Congress ministers and senior leaders were busy in their own projection. The ministers also went on arguing about how they were overshadowed by Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers in the coronavirus containment measures.
Thorat likened the party’s agitation against agriculture and labour laws to a second freedom movement. He has hinted that the party will continue to air its differences against these two laws despite sharing power. He urged the workers to show the party's strength and grab the opportunity for its revival.
On the other hand, former CM Ashok Chavan, who is the Public Works Minister, alleged the traders are now looting the country in the form of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the same way that the East India Company looted the country during the British rule. He noted that the Congress will press for the enactment of legislations that will protect the interest of farmers and labourers.
A large number of party workers are enthused by the Congress party taking an agitation route for revival, but they say it needs to be seen whether it will remain a photo opportunity for a few or will be implemented taking rank and file into confidence for the party’s consolidation.