On the day that NCP chief Sharad Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss a seat-sharing arrangement between the two parties for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls, the Congress suffered another setback Tuesday when former Mumbai party chief Kripashankar Singh and actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar quit.
The resignations came hours after Pawar and Gandhi met and decided to contest an equal number of seats in Maharashtra. While Singh said he did not agree with the party’s stand on Article 370, Matondkar, who was the Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Mumbai North, blamed infighting in the Mumbai Congress unit for her exit.
On seat-sharing talks, a Congress leader said the two parties could contest around 125 seats, leaving about 38 seats to other allies. “Seat sharing is decided… It is more or less a 50-50 arrangement. And in that, both the parties will accommodate our allies… Broadly, the seat-sharing is on track,” a senior NCP leader told The Indian Express. He said Pawar was in Delhi to attend former BJP Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s memorial meeting.
A senior Congress leader said both parties have identified almost 120 seats each. “In the last few seats, we will see who has got a stronger candidate…that party will take that seat. In the Lok Sabha elections also, the initial deal was 50-50. Then, the NCP did not have candidates in certain seats…it became 24-26…after that also they surrendered one seat to us…the final arrangement will be known by Wednesday,” said the leader.
Kripashankar Singh’s exit, meanwhile, stunned the party in the state. He told The Indian Express that he was “upset” with and “hurt” by the Congress decision to oppose the Centre’s move to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.
“The day Article 370 was scrapped…and the Congress opposed it in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha…that day itself, I had said that nation should be first for the party…instead of opposing abrogation of Article 370…the party should talk about how people of J&K can be integrated with the mainstream…,” he said.
“For me, nation is first and everything comes after that…we always say Kashmir is an integral part of India. Then how the state can have a separate flag, Constitution…instead of opposing, the Congress should have told the Government that we could not do it…now that you have done it…let’s discuss betterment and development of the state.”
Singh said he had to face probing questions from the people on the Congress’s stand on Article 370. “When the nation is going in one direction…the party should understand…”
Matondkar’s exit signalled the rift within the Congress. “I have resigned from the Indian National Congress. My political and social sensibilities refuse to allow vested interests in the party to use me as a means to fight petty in-house politics instead of working on a bigger goal in Mumbai Congress,” she said.
In a letter to Congress leader Milind Deora, Matondkar had criticised the conduct of Sandesh Kondvilkar and Bhushan Patil, close associates of Sanjay Nirupam, former Mumbai Congress president.
Former Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora backed her. “After Urmila Matondkar decided to fight LS elections from Mumbai North, I supported her campaign wholeheartedly as Congress Mumbai President. I stood by her when she was let down by those who brought her into the party. Fully agree that Mumbai North leaders must be held accountable!” he tweeted.
Adding to the growing list of leaders quitting the Congress in Maharashtra, former state cabinet minister and four-term MLA Harshavardhan Patil is also expected to join the BJP. Sources in the Maharashtra BJP claimed Patil will be inducted into the party Wednesday. — (With ENS Mumbai)