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Ministers oppose Ajit Pawar's plan to go solo in polls

While the deputy CM feels the time is right for the NCP to break its ties with the Congress, senior leaders told party chief Sharad Pawar that they would need an alliance for the assembly elections

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) appears to be a divided house over the contentious issue of contesting the upcoming assembly polls. A majority of the leaders are pushing for the party to retain its alliance with the Congress, which is contrary to the idea mooted by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar that the NCP should fly solo in the polls.

While Deputy CM Ajit Pawar (left) and his supporters want to break off ties with the Congress and contest the assembly polls alone, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal (extreme right) is one of the prominent leaders who wish to maintain the alliance for the NCP’s greater interests. File pic
While Deputy CM Ajit Pawar (left) and his supporters want to break off ties with the Congress and contest the assembly polls alone, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal (extreme right) is one of the prominent leaders who wish to maintain the alliance for the NCP’s greater interests. File pic

Though Pawar had said it was his personal view, in two meetings one last week and another one on Wednesday ministers and MLAs from Mumbai, north Maharashtra and western Maharashtra have clearly told party supremo Sharad Pawar that it would be in the greater interest of the party to contest the elections in alliance with the Congress.

PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who lost the Lok Sabha elections from Nashik by a huge margin to Shiv Sena’s Hemant Godse, was among the prominent faces who believed it was good for the NCP to stay put in the alliance. “If we decide to go alone, it may prove disastrous for the party.

Most of the leaders were heard echoing such a tune,” a source from the party told mid-day. NCP will soon convene another meeting to review the situation, a senior NCP leader said.

Breaking ties
Among those who want to party ways with the Congress, according to sources, are ministers Jaidatta Kshirsagar and Rajesh Tope, both from the Marathwada region. Pawar was the first person to openly address the elephant in the room after the alliance suffered a crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in May.

The group feels it’s the right time to cut itself loose. The other hitch between the two parties is the issue of seat sharing the NCP wants 144 seats for itself and a formal demand for this was placed before a coordination committee that comprises the CM Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, senior ministers and state unit chiefs of both the parties.

On Thursday the CM and MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre asserted that seat allocation should happen in a respectable manner, implying that the Congress is not willing to accede to NCP’s higher demand of seats.

The NCP, on the other hand, believes the Congress should take a rigid stand on the issue, as it was on the backfoot after the Lok Sabha fiasco. The NCP contested a total of 119 of the 288 seats in the 2009 assembly elections, while rest went to the Congress.

62
Number of MLAs the NCP currently has in the Maharashtra assembly

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