In a significant development that may have a strong bearing on the prospects of Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance in the next Assembly elections in Maharashtra,former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was on Friday elected Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) vice-president.
A strong advocate,of late,of go-it-alone policy for the party in the Assembly elections,Deshmukh was elected unopposed with presidential candidate Sharad Pawars panel fielding no candidate against him.
While Deshmukh contested as an Independent candidate,NCP sources said he had the backing of Pawar right from the beginning. As against the two posts of vice-president,Pawar fielded only one candidate leaving the other for the Congress leader. According to MCA sources,without the NCP chiefs support,Deshmukh never stood any chance of making it to the MCA. Incidentally,Deshmukh,who had defied the partys gag order on July 1 to speak against the Congress-NCP alliance,has been keeping quiet since filing his nomination papers last week.
The Congress had cautioned party leaders against expressing any personal opinion publicly about the alliance in Maharashtra. Deshmukh,who was the first to go public against the alliance,had,however,reiterated his opposition to the alliance the same day.
The ruling partys gag order had come a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Pawar shared a platform in Mumbai where the NCP chief had proposed that the Bandra-Worli sea-link be named after Rajiv Gandhi. According to Congress sources,even the Congress president was taken unawares as the NCP chief had not given any clue about his proposal until he announced it.
With the NCPs tally dwindling and the Congresss tally improving in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha election,the NCP,which had adopted combative postures vis-à-vis its alliance partner before election,has been going overboard to keep the Congress in good humour.
While the Congress maintained a studied silence on its strategy in Maharashtra Assembly elections,the NCP leaders have been making public statements about the need for the alliance to strengthen secular forces.
One of the founder members of the NCP,P A Sangma,had called on Sonia last month to offer his apology for what he had done to her in 1999 when he,along with Pawar and Tariq Anwar,had raised a banner of revolt against her on her foreign origin issue that had led to the formation of the NCP. While the NCP had termed Sangmas apology his personal opinion,the party refrained from spelling out its stance on the issue.