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Congress leaders in funds row

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Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre is in trouble for his reported conversation with party leader Satish Chaturvedi over the collection of money for the Sevagram rally to be addressed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday. The rally is being organised as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the party’s foundation. Sevagram in Wardha district has been chosen the venue for the rally as Mahatma Gandhi had stayed there in the 1930s during the freedom struggle.

Thakre and Chaturvedi, a former minister, were caught on camera discussing the fund collection for making the arrangements for the rally. The two leaders reportedly made some critical remarks against state Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

Though the episode has embarrassed the party, it is not going to cast any shadow on the rally. “The rally is on. Soniaji is coming to address the meeting. There’s great enthusiasm among the people,” state party spokesperson Hussain Dalwai said. But the episode has given Thakre’s detractors a handle to attack him with redoubled vigour and the calls for his removal as CM have grown louder.

Sections within the faction-ridden state unit, especially those owing allegiance to former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and state Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, have already upped the ante against Thakre. “He should be replaced immediately. The party has suffered a lot during his tenure and the factions have grown,” a leader close to Deshmukh camp said. But Thakre camp is unmoved. “These are frustrated and defeated people. Some of them have been badly defeated in the last polls. They take out their frustration by attacking Thakre,” said one of his close aides.

Thakre along with other state unit chiefs are likely to be replaced during the organisational restructuring that will be completed before the All India Congress Committee session in Delhi on November 2.

During the visit, Gandhi is going to send a strong message to the warring groups to close ranks and work for strengthening the party so that it can contest the 2014 assembly polls on its own. The differences between the two factions had surfaced during the recent organisational polls in the state.