NCP fields state chief against 'ally' Congress for bypoll

Sharad Pawar-led party stuns Congress by fielding Sunil Tatkare against Mohan Joshi for the state council bypoll; Congress alleges NCP has tacit deal with Shiv Sena

Barely a week after Congress and NCP chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar met and decided at the highest level that the two parties would contest the upcoming state polls together, the NCP seems to have joined hands with rival Shiv Sena for a state council bypoll seat.

The decision to field Tatkare comes barely a week after Pawar announced that Cong, NCP would fight state polls together
The decision to field Tatkare comes barely a week after Pawar announced that Cong, NCP would fight state polls together

The Congress had already nominated Mohan Joshi for the seat, vacated by Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut when he won in the Lok Sabha elections, and was taken by surprise on Monday when NCP fielded its state chief Sunil Tatkare against Joshi.

Visibly upset, Congress sources told mid-day that the move did not just go against every tenet of coalition dharma but also showed how ungrateful the NCP was, as the party had helped the latter win several bypolls in the past.

Claiming he was ignorant about the reasons behind NCP’s move, Joshi said, “Our party has supported the NCP whenever bypolls have been held in the recent past. It happened when Kiran Pawaskar and Dhananjay Munde quit the Shiv Sena and BJP respectively and sought re-election to the state council after they joined the NCP.

Similarly, in the month of June, the Congress backed NCP leader Praful Patel when he fought a bypoll for the Rajya Sabha seat,” Joshi said.

What has upset the Congress even more is that the Shiv Sena, which could have claimed the seat vacated by its own member, has decided to stay away from the bypoll in what seems to be a quid-pro-quo arrangement with the NCP.

According to an NCP leader from Thane, Sena may get a cakewalk in the Shrivardhan assembly constituency, represented by Tatkare, in the assembly polls. “Without such an understanding, the Sena cannot stay away from the bypoll,” said a senior Congress leader.

All guns blazing
So keen was the NCP on fielding Tatkare that he resigned as an MLA half an hour before filing his nomination papers for the bypoll in the afternoon. Tatkare reached Vidhan Bhavan soon after Joshi filed his nomination papers around 2 pm, went straight to assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil’s chamber and submitted his resignation.

The speaker’s office immediately contacted the returning officer for the by-poll and said that it had been accepted, paving the way for Tatkare to submit his nomination papers, which happened around 2.30 pm. “Such developments cannot take place at a pace like that unless they have the blessings of the NCP high command,” said a Congress minister.

NCP speak
Tatkare said it was his party leadership’s decision to nominate him. Asked about the claims of an arrangement with the Sena, he said the leadership would clarify these matters. The bypoll is slated to take place on August 21 and the last date for a candidate to withdraw from it is August 14.

“If Tatkare, who is going to take part in the seat-sharing talks with Congress leaders, does not withdraw before that, it will certainly sour relations between the two parties,” said a Congress leader.

Strategic move
According to a senior Congress minister, the NCP may have decided to nominate Tatkare to the state council to deny the opposition ammunition on the irrigation scam issue in the upcoming assembly polls.

“As the former water resources minister and a key accused in the scam, Tatkare would have been the target of the Sena-BJP combine in the assembly elections,” he said.

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