In a pre-election boost to the NCP, nine Independent legislators, including a minister, Monday joined the party, which said it was firm on contesting 144 out of the total 288 Assembly seats in the elections next month. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the ball was now in the Congress’s court.
The new entrants included minister Dilip Sopal, who wasn’t present during the induction but announced his entry through a mobile phone call to Ajit Pawar at the function. The other legislators who joined the Sharad Pawar-led NCP Monday were Mansingh Naik (Shirala), Balasaheb Patil (Karad), Makrand Patil (Wai), Ramesh Thorat (Daund), Babasaheb Patil (Ahmedpur), Suresh Deshmukh (Wardha), Sharad Gavit (Navapur) and Sahebrao Patil (Amalner). The NCP also made it clear that it was firm on contesting 144 seats in the Assembly polls on October 15.
“The top leaders of Congress and NCP held talks on seat-sharing in Delhi. We are awaiting the response. The ball is in their court,” Ajit Pawar told reporters after inducting the nine Independent legislators into the NCP. “We are firm on 144 seats,” he said.
Asked if there were plans to contest polls without the Congress, he said: “So far there are no such plans.” When pointed out that Congress leaders were scrutinising candidates for seats that are now with the NCP, Pawar said: “If that is the case, we also won’t keep quiet. Anyways, it is their (Congress) right to undertake such an exercise.”
“There is a trend seen in workers of all parties to go independent,” he said, in response to a query. “Senior NCP leaders feel there should be no division of secular votes,” Pawar said.
Meanwhile, the NCP Monday also inducted former legislator Rajan Teli, a former aide of Congress state campaign chief Narayan Rane. NCP state president Sunil Tatkare evaded a direct response to queries on Teli’s name allegedly figuring in a murder case.