Pune seat suspense: City Congress says it has started Lok Sabha campaign, NCP stays silenthttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-seat-suspense-city-congress-says-it-has-started-lok-sabha-campaign-ncp-stays-silent-5540412/

Pune seat suspense: City Congress says it has started Lok Sabha campaign, NCP stays silent

After Pawar’s statement, Raju Shetti says his party wants six seats

Pune seat suspense: City Congress says it has started Lok Sabha campaign, NCP stays silent
The NCP had hinted that it wanted the Pune seat for its chief Sharad Pawar, but the party chief later clarified that he was not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha polls (File Photo)

The Pune unit of the Congress on Tuesday claimed that in the seat-sharing talks between the party and the NCP, the city Lok Sabha seat has been decided in the party’s favour and that the NCP has given up its claim on it. The NCP, however, refused to confirm the development and said the allocation of seats would be announced at a later date.

The Congress’ claim came a day after senior leaders of both the alliance partners said they had struck a deal on 45 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Pune did not figure in the still undecided three seats. But neither of the parties released the name of the seats that had been allocated to them under the arrangement.

The NCP, however, said the leadership of both parties will announce the final decision. The decision regarding seat- sharing in Maharashtra is being taken at the highest level of both parties after the state units had failed to reach an agreement on eight Lok Sabha seats, despite several rounds of talks.

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Partners in alliance, but with different takes

The fact that neither party has released the list of seats allocated to them could be an indication that the competing claims of the two parties on a few seats have still not been decided. On the Pune seat, the local leaderships of both the parties are sticking to what they have been saying all this while. With the likely inclusion of Raju Shetti's Swabhimani Paksh party, and possibly also Prakash Ambedkar's front, the final shape of the alliance could be different from what it appears now.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had contested 26 seats and the NCP 21. The Congress had registered its worst performance, winning only two seats, while the NCP managed to win four seats. “We have been told by our leaders that the Congress will contest the Pune seat as it has been doing so for years,” Congress city president Ramesh Bagwe told The Indian Express on Tuesday.

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Bagwe’s statement was, however, not corroborated by state Congress chief Ashok Chavan, who said he was not aware that alliance discussions on 45 seats had already been settled. “No final decision has been taken regarding the seat-sharing. The final decision will be revealed only when we accommodate all our alliance partners,” he said.

When asked if the NCP has given up its claim on the Pune Lok Sabha seat, Chavan said discussions were underway and nothing could be said at this juncture.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also refused to comment on whether the alliance has reached a decision on the Pune seat. “If our party chief has made the statement, go by it. I have no knowledge of whether a decision on Pune seat has been taken,” he said.
As for the Hatkanangle seat, both parties have reached an agreement to allot the Hatkanangle seat to Swabhimani Paksh. Its leader Raju Shetti had won the seat in 2014. The Congress will allot the seat to Swabhimani Paksh out of its quota of 24 seats.
Shetti said he was not aware of the reported agreement between Congress and NCP. He said in any case his party had staked claim on six seats and not just on Hatkanangle. “We are eyeing six seats, including Wardha and Buldhana. We have strong candidates there. During discussions, we will present strong arguments for contesting the seats,” he said.

The Pune seat had become contentious after the NCP laid claim to it, arguing that it had better and stronger leaders to win the seat after the Congress candidate was defeated in the 2014 election by BJP’s Anil Shirole by a massive margin of 3.5 lakh votes. The NCP had also cited the civic elections held subsequently, in which the Congress was reduced to a single digit tally while the NCP had won in 38 wards. The NCP had hinted that it wanted the Pune seat for its chief Sharad Pawar, but the party chief later clarified that he was not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha polls.

Pune city Congress claimed that Pawar’s statement makes it clear that the seat is no longer a contentious one. “We have already started making preparations for contesting the Pune seat. We have put in place ward committees and booth committees. We will also try to get our party president Rahul Gandhi soon to address party workers in Pune,” Bagwe said. “Last time, we lost and everyone knows why… But this time, we will reclaim the seat,” he added.

The Congress said there were six claimants for the party ticket in Pune, including Mohan Joshi, Balasaheb Shivarkar, Ulhas Pawar, Abhay Chhajed, Anant Gadgil and Arvind Shinde, with Pawar being the senior-most. Except for Joshi, who has contested the Lok Sabha election once, none of the other candidates has ever contested parliamentary polls. The Pune seat has traditionally been a Congress bastion.