Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Saturday tweaked their seat-sharing pact for the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra with the former now set to contest one more seat in the state.
The development comes almost a month after a joint announcement that the parties would stick to the 2009 seat-sharing formula, where Congress contested 26 seats and NCP 22.
During a meeting of senior party leaders from both sides in Delhi, it was decided that Congress would now contest 27 seats and the NCP 21.
NCP has agreed to leave the Hatkanangale seat in Kolhapur district to the Congress. In 2009, the NCP had lost badly there to Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathana leader Raju Shetty.
Party insiders say decision to relinquish claim on the constituency was taken as the party was unsure of wresting it from Shetty even this time around. The party briefly toyed with the idea of fielding state’s Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil, who was reportedly reluctant himself, but eventually changed its mind. A senior Congress leader said the additional seat was due to the diplomacy of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who managed to convince the NCP to relinquish this seat.
The constituency is dominated by the Jain community. Sources say Congress feels it stands a better chance if it nominated veteran leader and former MP Kalappa Awade, who hails from the community.
Decks were also cleared for NCP leader and Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare to contest from the Raigad constituency, with the Congress camp agreeing to leave this seat in return of a chance to contest from Hingoli, which went to the NCP the last time. Former chief minister A R Antulay (Congress) had contested from the Raigad seat the last time and lost to Shiv Sena’s Anant Geete. Even this time, Antulay was lobbying for a ticket for his son Mushtaq.
Rahul Gandhi’s close aide and legislator Rajeev Satav is set to contest from Hingoli. In 2009, Shiv Sena’s Subhash Wankhede had defeated then sitting MP Suryakanta Patil (NCP) here by a thumping margin to win the seat.
Though the NCP was pushing for exchange of Hatkanangale with Jalna, sources say Congress is not willing to let go of the seat. BJP has been winning this seat consistently since 1996. The NCP, which was looking to field state’s Higher and Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope, was of the opinion that it could wrest the seat.