Within NCP, growing rumblings over Congress

The Lok Sabha polls, feel NCP leaders, provided the ideal opportunity to start afresh.

Published:January 11, 2014 12:12 am

The outburst by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar against CM Prithviraj Chavan at a cabinet meeting Wednesday reflected the apprehension within the NCP over the price of an alliance with the Congress.
Overruling all such fears, an internal meeting of top leaders of the party indicated Monday the tie-up will continue for the Lok Sabha polls. It declared candidates for 22 seats in Maharashtra, with the remaining 26 presumably left for the Congress.
Within the NCP though, workers and prominent leaders believe that if the party wants to improve its chances, it should not enter into any pre-poll truck but leave the window open for a post-poll alliance with the Congress. Given the prevailing anti-Congress sentiment, they say, any alliance before the elections could be performing harakiri.
NCP insiders also believe contesting all the 48 Lok Sabha seats would help the party assert its presence across Maharashtra at a time Raj Thackeray’s MNS and the Aam Aadmi Party are making inroads. The tie-up with the Congress has ended up stunting the party’s growth, they feel.
“The party has failed to grow in terms of membership in several constituencies where it does not field a candidate. This has a bearing on the local body polls, which in turn affects the percentage of votes and seats secured by the NCP. The Congress has been leveraging this deficiency to get more seats,” a senior NCP leader says.
Party workers also point out that the Congress in Maharashtra is a “rudderless ship” since Vilasrao Deshmukh’s death. While top leaders like Sushil Kumar Shinde have exited the poll race, others like Pune MP Suresh Kalmadi and former chief minister Ashok Chavan are on a sticky wicket. CM Chavan is not popular beyond his home constituency and, as charged by Ajit Pawar in his outburst, is running an administration plagued by indecision. Narayan Rane, the only leader capable of drawing crowds, has been pinned down by the Shiv Sena in Konkan. The Lok Sabha polls, feel NCP leaders, provided the ideal opportunity to start afresh.
What NCP leaders are surprised about is that Sharad Pawar, known for his acumen, has “failed to read the situation”. While party MP Vandana Chavan insists he wants to keep communal forces at bay, for most in the NCP, that reason is ringing too hollow.
Manoj is a senior assistant editor based in Pune
manoj.more@expressindia.com

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