Even as Rahul Gandhi is in the process of holding primaries on 17 Lok Sabha seats as the first step towards giving party workers a say in the selection of candidates, the party has ruffled the feathers of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by demanding a seat from the ally’s quota to enable his close aide and Indian Youth Congress (IYC) president Rajeev Satav to contest from the constituency of his choice.
This, apart from the demand for an additional seat, was said to have strained ties between the two parties, which, said sources, could have been the provocation for the recent statements of NCP leaders virtually giving a clean chit to the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, citing a court verdict in Gujarat riots case.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar along with Praful Patel called on senior Congress leader A K Antony Wednesday to iron out the differences in seatsharing negotiations but the meeting was said to have remained inconclusive. They are likely to meet again next week.
“While there is a lot of posturing from both sides on the number of seats each wants to contest, the main issue is about Kolhapur seat that the Congress wants the NCP to cede and the swapping of seats to enable Satav to contest from NCP-held Hingoli seat. We would like the NCP to swap Jalna with Hingoli although we have a better chance of winning Jalna,” said a senior Congress functionary.
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In 2009, the Congress had contested 26 seats leaving 22 seats for the NCP in Maharashtra. This time though, the Congress wants its ally to forego one more seat.
Satav, who had already overshot the maximum prescribed age for IYC members at the time of his nomination as its president four years ago, had successfully contested the last assembly election in Maharashtra and is said to be keen to contest the Lok Sabha seat from Hingoli. Congress sources claimed the party may have a better chance to win BJP-held Jalna seat.
Congress sources said while the NCP “may ultimately agree” to the swapping of seats, the latter is not inclined to give up its claim on Kolhapur, held by Independent candidate Sadashivrao Mandlik who joined the Congress. Congress interloctors argue that the party had in the past given up its claim on Beed seat after sitting MP Jaisingrao Gaikwad quit the BJP to join the NCP. Therefore, the Congress argues, when the sitting MP has joined the Congress in Kolhapur, the NCP should forefeit its seat.