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New versus old debate in Congress over Maharashtra Assembly poll tickets

Looking to beat 15 years of anti-incumbency in Maharashtra, the Congress leadership wants to field several fresh faces in the upcoming Assembly elections in the state although there is a view among some of its leader that the move may backfire.

Leaders from Maharashtra, including ministers, have contended that too many fresh faces in the polls could prove counter-productive for the party.

A senior Congress leader said that the issue of new faces vis-a-vis experienced persons had seen its Central Election Committee (CEC) take no decision at a meeting last week on the seats held by the party.

A decision on the issue is expected soon at the next meeting of CEC, which is likely after the return of party chief Sonia Gandhi from the USA, where she has gone for a medical check-up.

The seat-sharing arrangement with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is also expected to be finalised in the next few days. Congress appeared ready to give around 130 seats to the junior partner.

Maharashtra has a total of 288 Assembly seats and, for the last state elections, Congress had allotted 114 seats to NCP.

Congress and NCP are sharing power in the state for the past 15 years, soon after Pawar parted ways with the former on the issue of Sonia’s foreign origin.

In the recently held general elections, Congress won only two seats while NCP bagged four of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Pawar’s party had been pressing for a 50:50 seat- sharing arrangement following the Lok Sabha elections.

The talk in Congress circles is that several senior leaders are keen to give tickets to their kith and kin, including former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who is said to be looking to field his wife Amita while senior Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane is lobbying for a ticket for his son.

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