Going by reactions from the Congress after the state unit was asked to withdraw party nominee Mohan Joshi’s name from the state council bypoll, the Congress-NCP alliance is a divided house.

State NCP chief Sunil Tatkare. File pic
State NCP chief Sunil Tatkare. File pic

There was a stunned silence at Congress’ Gandhi Bhavan and Vidhan Bhavan offices when Joshi was asked to withdraw his nomination to ensure NCP state unit chief Sunil Tatkare’s unopposed victory. “Till late Wednesday, everything was in favour of Joshi despite a meeting between CM Prithviraj Chavan and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

The Congress state unit was solidly behind Joshi, and senior leaders including the CM, Sushilkumar Shinde, Narayan Rane and Ashok Chavan had asked Joshi to stay firm on his decision to contest,” said a senior party office bearer.

“But, to our surprise, things started moving in Delhi, resulting in a call from AICC on Thursday, asking Joshi to withdraw his nomination. The withdrawal was done by 2.30 pm. This may have happened after NCP chief Sharad Pawar spoke to senior Congress leaders in Delhi,” said the office bearer.

The state Congress was in shock as Joshi’s win was almost certain. “I was confident of winning as we have a strength of 96 MLAs against the NCP’s 72. But, I have obeyed the party’s decision as Congress and NCP have been in alliance for 15 years,” said Joshi.

Though Joshi declined to say whether a deal was made, party sources said Congress may not offer more than 122 seats to the NCP against the demand for 144. To boost workers’ morale, Congress announced a programme of interviews of ticket aspirants from all 288 assembly constituencies. MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said all senior leaders were of the view that Congress should contest the by-poll.

“It was our seat and we had 24 votes more than the NCP,” he said. Asked whether Congress had given in to pressure from the ally, he denied it. “Adjustments have to be made in a coalition. After all, NCP had fielded their state unit chief,” he said.