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‘Cong cadre unhappy with NCP, find body language anti-Cong’

With Congress-NCP seat-sharing talks deadlocked over the latter’s insistence on getting more seats to contest the Assembly polls, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday said he is against breaking the alliance but party workers feel the ally’s “body language is anti-Congress”.

“It is not that we want to break the 15-year-old alliance, but Congress’ grassroots cadre is not happy with the role of NCP in the government and during elections.

“They are known to put up independent candidates to sabotage our chances. Our workers say their body language is anti-Congress,” Chavan said.

Several top NCP leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, nephew of party chief Sharad Pawar, have gone on record to demand 144 of the state’s 288 Assembly seats on the strength of its better performance in Lok Sabha elections.

NCP had won four of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while Congress could manage just two, in the worst-ever performance by the ruling combine.
Chavan said he had held a couple of rounds of talks with NCP leaders as the Congress high command had asked the state leadership to take a call on a seat-sharing formula.

Chavan, set to face what promises to be the toughest electoral challenge in his career, said the Assembly elections due in October will test the leadership skills of both himself and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The Assembly elections are an important test of my leadership abilities as also of the Prime Minister. If BJP does badly, it would reflect poorly on his leadership and people will say that the Lok Sabha win was just a flash in the pan,” he said.

The 68-year-old Maratha leader also felt the much publicised Gujarat model of governance is “abstract sloganeering” and that Maharashtra, in the 15 years of Congress-NCP rule, had seen much more development than its neighbour which would help the ruling alliance stave off a repeat of its dismal performance in Lok Sabha polls.

“In every sector, Maharashtra is ahead of Gujarat… What is Gujarat model…And what is it that you have done and we haven’t? We are leading in horticulture, industrialisation, education, health and are way ahead of others,” Chavan said.

He said Maharashtra is the most investment-friendly state and contributes almost 18.4 per cent to the country’s industrial output and constitutes 14.09 per cent of its GDP.

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