A resurgent Congress in Maharashtra began on Sunday a two-day-long interview for potential candidates for all 48 seats in the state. The interviews are being held in Mumbai by the scrutiny committee of the AICC along with the state parliamentary board in the backdrop of the NCPs continued ambiguous stand regarding its relationship with the Shiv Sena.
This also comes a day after the Congress launched its Lok Sabha poll campaign from Aurangabad by signalling its readiness to go it alone,saying it was no longer willing for an alliance with the NCP that proved detrimental to its political health in the state. The mood at the executive of the state Congress committee on Saturday struck a belligerent note with the overriding sentiment being that any alliance should be based on logic and not one where NCP got unilateral advantage.
The decision to blow the whistle on the NCP continuing to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds was not premeditated but came up naturally,said Sanjay Dutt,spokesperson,MPCC. It was first brought up by Vilas Muttamwar and seconded by Vilasrao Deshmukh on Saturday at the Aurangabad convention. The overriding sentiment of the party leaders was that all goodwill gestures by the Congress were being taken as signs of weakness by the NCP. The issue is now in the domain of the party high command. Deliberations are on and a decision (about the alliance) is expected soon, Dutt said.
Significantly,it was a rare show of unity by the state Congress leaders with CM Ashok Chavan,Vilasrao Deshmukh,Narayan Rane and MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre all speaking in the same vein.
Among the other issues that were debated was the NCP continuing with the Pune pattern to hold power in the city municipal corporation even today and the general fear at the grass-roots level that a committed support by the party to the NCP candidate may not be reciprocated by the latter in constituencies earmarked for the Congress.
On Saturday,Deshmukh,in a broadside against the NCP,said,We are ready to go it alone if the NCP refuses to change its strategy. We will win four seats in Marathwada with the NCP as our ally and eight seats without this ally. The seat-sharing can only benefit the NCP and harm us.
At another meeting in Pune,Pawar had glossed over the Senas overture towards him and his party by pointing out that the Shiv Sena had supported Pratibha Patil as president. He also downplayed questions about his aspirations to become the Prime Minister as arithmetic did not favour him his party was contesting only 40-45 seats across the country.