Mallikarjun Kharge rules out talks with Prakash Ambedkar
Senior Congress leader in charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday said that the party’s central leadership will not hold talks with Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). He also clarified that the alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will be retained for the Assembly polls later this year. “Only the State leaders will decide on whether to ally with the VBA and how many seats should be given to it,” Mr. Kharge told reporters at the end of a two-day meeting to review the party’s performance in Mumbai and Konkan.The VBA was formed before Lok Sabha polls after an alliance between Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh of Mr. Ambedkar and AIMIM, led by Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi. The VBA contested all 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra in the recently conducted general elections and is seen responsible for breaking anti-BJP vote bank, resulting in defeat of Congress candidates in around nine seats. Maharashra Congress committee president Ashok Chavan too lost his Nanded seat and had blamed the VBA for dividing anti-BJP votes. Mr. Ambedkar has earlier said he would talk to the Congress central leadership on an alliance. However, after Mr. Kharge’s statement on Friday, the VBA leader will have to hold talks with the state leadership. After the review meeting, Mr. Kharge said, “We have formed a five-member committee. The committee will travel all districts in the state within one month. A report will then be presented to the state congress. Any office-bearer who has not worked in the party’s interests will be sacked.” Accepting that at several places, Congress allies did not work in the party candidate’s favour, Mr. Kharge said despite that the alliance will be retained. “We have prepared a primary list of seats which will be left for the allies,” he said. Meanwhile, Congress has demanded Airoli Assembly seat in Navi Mumbai which is at present held by NCP’s Sandip Naik.