Taking everyone by surprise, former union minister and senior NCP leader Praful Patel launched a scathing attack on the Congress at a rally in Akola. Patel bluntly said the Congress and its leaders like former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had done the most harm to NCP.
He said a sinking Congress had taken the NCP down with it. He also claimed that former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was responsible for a number of inquiries launched against NCP leaders. Predictably, the Congress leaders in Maharashtra were taken by surprise and have reacted angrily.
Patel's attack has come at a time when Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan was discussing an alliance with the NCP for upcoming state legislative council elections for six seats.
A section within Congress—comprising senior leaders like Prithviraj Chavan, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Dr Patangrao Kadam—were keen on an agreement with NCP wherein both parties would contest three seats each. NCP is not ready for this as five of six legislative council seats are held by NCP members. Ashok Chavan had agreed to a formula which allowed NCP to contest five seats that it holds. Remaining one seat would then be contested by the Congress.
Chavan and Vikhe Patil are opposed to this adjustment as they feel that it was the NCP which broke up their alliance in 2014. As there is no formal alliance in place, the Congress should insist on equal number of seats if an understanding is to be reached, feels this section.
Praful Patel's attack on the Congress has to be seen in the context of these developments in Maharashtra. A senior Congress leader from Maharashtra told THE WEEK that the attack launched by Patel was a typical pressure tactic by the NCP. "Our state leaders are not strong enough to drive a hard bargain. Sharad Pawar and his colleagues in the NCP know this well. There is no need to get rattled when Pawar or Patel launches a similar attack again,” said the Congress leader.
Senior Congress leader Ratnakar Mahajan said it was sad that the NCP was terming the Congress as an enemy and not the BJP-Shiv Sena. "The probes against NCP leaders were launched either because of court orders or because of RBI instructions. In the case of the irrigation scam, probe was ordered by BJP government. All that Prithviraj Chavan did was to bring out a white paper on irrigation. So how can Patel blame Congress and Chavan for their problems, " asked Mahajan.