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‘Ensure MLAs Don’t Jump Ship’: Will Sonia Gandhi’s Brief, Nath’s Efforts Keep Maha Cong Flock Together?

“Congress leaders are not for sale” — With this statement, Congress leader Kamal Nath is trying his best to ensure that amid the political turmoil in Maharashtra, the party emerges as a house in order.

Sources said that when the phone call went to Nath to rush to Mumbai, the brief to him from Sonia Gandhi was simple. “Ensure we can be together and our MLAs don’t jump ship.”

In the political uncertainly within the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, it’s actually the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which has emerged strong, with none of their MLAs cross-voting or leaving.

It just adds to the strength of Sharad Pawar and shows he is powerful enough to keep his party together. The Congress now wants to share this tag. The reason is simple — It wants to show that the Congress top leadership has grip over its party.

The reason behind this desire is understandable, not just in the context of Maharashtra, but also across the country.

In the Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana, it was clear that cross-voting had led to defeat of Ajay Maken. Kuldeep Bishnoi was suspended, but not without making the Gandhis look weak.

The same story played out in Maharashtra, where the Congress lost in both MLC seats, thanks to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was clear there was cross-voting here too.

Sonia Gandhi clearly wants the control, with the party looking strong. If the Congress MLAs switch sides, as Nath fears they may, it will add to the perception that she has little control over the party. Hence the near desperation to dash off Nath.

The task for the ace veteran was spelt out by him when he told News18. “I am not here to control the Shiv Sena. I am here to ensure our MLAs don’t go away.”

But it’s a tough challenge. Because some MLAs are already in touch with the BJP. With many Congress MLAs having complained earlier that they were being shortchanged in the MVA government, the lure for a “lal batti” may drive some to the BJP.

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But hoping against hope, Sonia Gandhi’s and Nath’s calculation is that most of the flock will stick together. It was borne out initially as barring four, all turned up at the meeting with Nath.

The man who has often sprung surprise on his opponents in parliament as parliamentary affairs minister in the UPA government hopes to repeat his act.

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