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Cong-NCP pact awaits nod from party leaders

The Congress top leadership is still to give an “in-principle approval” for an electoral alliance with the NCP, though tongues are wagging about a possible pact ahead of the next general polls, following a recent meeting between leaders of the two parties.

Congress leaders said the idea of an alliance was yet to be formally approved by the party High Command.

Party president Rahul Gandhi was briefed about the February 6 meeting in Mumbai of the two parties state leaders, who also touched upon by-elections to two Parliamentary seats and 21 legislative council seats in Maharashtra, Congress sources said.

The approval of the central leaderships of the Congress and NCP would give momentum to the efforts to stitch an alliance between the parties, which had parted ways ahead of the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly polls after jointly holding power for 15 years.

“The state leaders meet did discuss the alliance issue. But it has not received an in-principle approval for the alliance as yet. Things are at a nascent stage as of now. The call has to be taken by the top leaderships of the two parties,” a source said.

According to another party insider, the Congress state unit is meanwhile identifying the “strengths and weaknesses” of such an alliance for the 2019 general and state polls.

If the two parties come together, the leader added, the Congress would pitch for a new formula to be followed for the coalition with the Sharad Pawar-led party.

Sharing of not just seats, but portfolios, too, would need to be reviewed before a pact is inked, the leader said.

“In the previous Congress-NCP governments, the NCP had key departments in the state government with it. We won’t settle for a raw deal. In case the deal happens, it should happen in a harmonious manner,” the leader added.

An NCP leader said the party was keen to have a tie-up, but differences had to be first ironed out.

“We are keen to have an alliance to take on the ruling coalition. But there are issues that have to be dealt with,” the senior NCP member said on the condition of anonymity.

Efforts are also on in the Congress to reach out to other like-minded parties in the state, the party leader said.

The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, led by MP Raju Shetti, was one such potential ally, the leader added, but brushed off the prospect of the Shiv Sena joining forces with the Congress.

This comes in the wake of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan last month saying that if the Sena wanted to join hands with anti-BJP parties, it would have to first snap its ties with the NDA and quit power.

“The Shiv Sena continues to be in power at the central and state levels. The tussle between the Shiv Sena and the BJP is more of a game of one-upmanship. It is not an ideological one. So, there is no possibility of aligning with Shiv Sena,” the leader added.

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