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Gathbandhan Unfolding?

Congress, NCP, Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha Election, Balasaheb Thorat, Sharad Pawar, Prakash Ambedkar, Raj Thackeray, MNS, Maharashtra election 2019, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi
The NCP has demanded equal seat sharing from the Congress for contesting the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections. The party said that it has performed better in the Lok Sabha polls. Both the parties had a meeting pertaining to the distribution of seats in Mumbai. Assembly polls in the state are likely to be held in October this year. Both NCP and the Congress had fought the Lok Sabha polls jointly. After the meeting, NCP leader stated that now the situation has changed and the party has performed well as compared to the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls. Therefore, the NCP is demanding equal seat share from Congress.

On Tuesday, senior leaders of the NCP had a meeting to discuss the strategy for assembly polls. The drubbing received in the Lok Sabha polls by NCP too was discussed. Meanwhile, there are speculations about the Congress, NCP, MNS and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) joining hands in assembly elections. The Maharashtra assembly has 288 seats.

D.P. Tripathi, NCP General Secretary said, “Yes the Congress will definitely go for a 50-50 seat sharing pact with the NCP. The Congress should have given us more seats for contesting Lok Sabha polls. First, let us win the elections and then we can decide the contender for the chief ministerial post.”

The Congress has fought the Lok Sabha polls on 25 seats, NCP on 20 seats and other alliance partners had contested polls for three seats. The NCP managed to win four seats and Congress won only one seat in the Lok Sabha polls. Both the parties had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where NCP won four seats and Congress won only two seats.

Congress spokesperson Hemlata Patil said, “Right now preliminary meetings are being held. Every party demands more seats to gain an upper hand over their alliance partner. This is the first meeting and discussions will be held and no dispute will happen. Right now we are not discussing which party will keep the Chief Minister’s post. It is necessary that more and more candidates win the election and then we will decide the rest.”

The Congress has been having an alliance with NCP since 1999 but both the parties contested the 2014 assembly polls separately. The NCP had contested on 21 seats while its partner Congress fielded 26. When NCP had won more seats as compared to Congress in the 2004 assembly polls it had demanded the chief ministerial post from Congress. The Congress nonetheless was reluctant to offer the chief ministerial post to NCP.

MNS leader Prakash Pawar said, “There are lesser chances of the Congress, NCP, and MNS coming together for contesting assembly polls. Right now no talks are being held with MNS and only reports are being carried by the media. No leader from Congress or NCP has come forward to hold talks with MNS.”

“The situation has changed now. We had fared better than the Congress in the last two Lok Sabha polls. So seats have to be divided equally,” a party leader stated. The newly appointed Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said that his party would like to have an alliance with MNS for the assembly polls. Thorat’s statement comes at a time when the Congress had earlier rejected the MNS as an alliance partner for the Lok Sabha polls. The MNS was not popular with the North Indian community in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The MNS has been blaming migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for rising crime rates in the city.

“To safeguard democracy and progressive values, the present Maharashtra government needs to be voted out of power. We and the NCP are together but we will also try to take the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and the MNS,” said Thorat while speaking to the media. Thorat’s statement is a realisation that the Congress has changed its stand with regard to having alliance with MNS.

In 2009, assembly polls, the Congress contested 174 seats while NCP fought on 114 seats. In 2014, both the parties contested the elections separately. Both the parties are yet to arrive at a consensus pertaining to seat-sharing as they will have to incorporate several other parties like Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, factions of Republican Party and possibly the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

By Dipti Joshi

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