Can Congress bury the hatchet with NCP?

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After its impressive performance in Gujarat assembly polls Congress is facing an uphill task to renew its alliance with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly polls. Both parties had failed to resolve the seat sharing issue prior to the 2014 assembly polls. NCP was in favour of equal seating sharing formula but Congress had rejected the proposal. At that time, the NCP also had demanded equal sharing of the tenure of chief minister’s post but Congress failed to pay heed towards it. As a result of this, NCP severed ties with Congress and contested the 2014 assembly polls singlehandedly. The decision to call of alliance resulted into a massive setback for both these parties as BJP-Shiv Sena emerged victorious.

Since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is just an year and few months away, Congress and NCP will once again have to resolve the deadlock of seat sharing issue. Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan admitted that Congress is facing practical issues in renewing alliance with NCP. Chavan added that both the parties would have fared better and could have secured 35 per cent votes if they had contested assembly polls together. “Yes, difficulties are there. But both parties must remember they were in power for 15 years in the state and can work out an amicable solution,” he said.

When AV spoke to Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson, he said, “NCP had never demanded the equal sharing of chief ministerial tenure from Congress and it was a political gossip. The then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was very confident. The alliance failed to work as Congress was never keen to have a tie-up with NCP. They fielded their own candidates in those constituencies where NCP was contesting polls. This time, to contest upcoming election, both the parties are thinking together to stitch an alliance and give a tough fight to BJP.”

Congress too is wary about NCP cosying up to BJP. NCP had earlier extended outside support to the BJP government in Maharashtra after it had fallen short of majority. Later the party had withdrawn support as Shiv Sena joined the government.

Arif Naseem Khan, Congress MLA called for secular parties to join hands to challenge BJP. He said, “Parties should maintain their own dignity and give a tough competition to BJP. If this happens then they can prevent communal forces from retaining power. BJP government has failed to provide good governance in both rural and urban areas. They failed to meet the commitment made to people. Not only NCP, but according to me, all secular parties should come together to fight against communal forces in the upcoming election. All the parties are now interested in driving BJP out of power, so ego issues have to be kept at the backburner.”

Subhash Desai, Shiv Sena leader and Industries Minister is hopeful that Congress and NCP will come together to fight election against BJP. He said, “Both these parties are not strong individually in the state. However, after looking at Congress’s impressive performance in Gujarat, NCP is keen to have alliance with the former. I think they will ask for their share of seats but they won’t remain that aggressive while bargaining. According to me, both Congress and NCP have no option besides forming alliance or else they will be wiped out from the state. As far as Shiv Sena is concerned though we have the common opponent in BJP, but Sena and Congress can never come together.”

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