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'Not so easy to buy tickets with cash'

Slamming detractors within his party, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan denies allegations of monetary consideration for BMC tickets as well as favouritism

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who unlike his predecessors has been taking keen interest in the BMC polls, has lashed out at accusations that poll tickets were sold by his party men for cash. "The candidates were selected after due diligence and consultation with the local MP, MLA, and district unit chief of the party.

Prithviraj Chavan had ready retorts for cynics within the party who made accusations of nepotism, cash-for-votes, bias against the party's youth wing, and weakness in dealing with the NCP


A committee comprising all influential leaders from the party has handpicked the candidates. Is it so easy to manage so many people involved in the selection process so they allot tickets against monetary consideration?" Chavan asked the accusers at Varsha on Friday.

Ever since the announcement of candidates, the party has been under attack from various dissatisfied cadres across the city. General Secretary of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, Ajit Sawant, who was expelled recently, had openly levelled the cash-for-tickets allegation.

The CM was defensive over the allocation of tickets to close relatives of Congress leaders, saying, "In the process of selecting candidates, such instances were inevitable, and the elective merit was the sole criteria." He also refused to accept that fewer nominations had gone to the youth wing of the party.

He added, "Rebellion will not have any major impact on the prospects of the party's official candidates."

'Coalition a need'
Chavan also refused to accept that he gave in to NCP's tantrums by offering more seats to the coalition partner. "To defeat the Shiv Sena-BJP, an alliance with the NCP was necessary," he said, adding, "During the 2007 civic polls, Congress and NCP fought against each other but collectively they were ahead in 132 wards."

"We will have to avoid the division of secular votes to defeat Shiv Sena-BJP combine. I am trying to take the fight to the level of UPA against NDA," said Chavan, who has been active in the BMC election right from alliance talks to selection of candidates.

"Congress-NCP's main plank would be the development of Mumbai carried out by state and central governments. The campaigning would revolve around issues such as the housing, transportation and drinking water and the vital projects of Mumbai makeover."

Regarding a recent comment by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray that a vote to the Congress meant a vote to 
corruption, the CM said the Congress and NCP would highlight corruption in the Sena-ruled BMC related
to funds given by the central government and the tendering process with inflated costs.

'Personalised war'
Reacting over the ongoing war of words among his cabinet colleagues, Chavan said it was due to intense pressure from the local units of both the parties. "Elections for the local bodies are more individualistic and since Congress and NCP are fighting separately, leaders are attacking each other."

Recently, a wordy duel was witnessed between Dy CM Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R R Patil and Industries Minister Narayan Rane, and State Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
 
Union Science & Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh too had come down heavily on the NCP. "I am going to speak with leaders from both the sides," said Chavan.

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