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Maharashtra assembly polls: Smaller parties give Congress, NCP some last-minute jitters

Only two days are left for the nominations to be filed. The Congress and the NCP had earlier declared that the constituents of the alliance and the seat-sharing arrangement will be declared on Wednesday afternoon.

Mumbai |
October 3, 2019 2:17:10 am
(From left) Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, in Mumbai on Wednesday. Nirmal Harindran

IN AN embarrassment for the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra, the official announcement of the Opposition alliance, which was to be declared Wednesday afternoon, was postponed thrice and finally cancelled on account of “last-minute differences with smaller allies”.

Only two days are left for the nominations to be filed. The Congress and the NCP had earlier declared that the constituents of the alliance and the seat-sharing arrangement will be declared on Wednesday afternoon.

But the press conference that was called to make the announcement was cancelled. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who had come to the venue of the press conference in South Mumbai, later told the media that the seat-sharing pact with some of the smaller allies was “still being finalised”.

Elaborating more on this, NCP’s Mumbai president Nawab Malik, also present at the venue, said, “The arrangement with the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, the CPI, the CPI(M), and Janata Dal (Secular) was yet to the finalised.”

According to sources, there was some discord with the Left parties over the candidature from the Nashik (West) and the Dahanu Assembly seat, while the Raju Shetti-led Sanghathana was pushing for more allocation of seats.

Till late evening, senior Congress and NCP leaders were holding talks with these parties to formalise the pact. The Samajwadi Party (SP) has announced that it will be a part of the Opposition’s alliance. While the party had initially demanded seven seats, it has now agreed to contest three – Mankhurd- Shivajinagar, Bhiwandi (East) and Aurangabad (East).

Of this, the Mankhurd-Shivajinagar seat was won by party leader Abu Azmi in 2014. On Tuesday, Azmi had lashed out at the Congress-NCP leadership over delay in the seat-sharing pact, and had threatened to walk out of the alliance.

“We had identified candidates for 57 seats. But in the interest of stitching a grand alliance to avoid a split of secular voters, we had sought seven seats. These leaders (referring to the state Congress leaders) talk big but all their decisions are taken in Delhi,” he said, adding, “in spirit of the alliance, we have agreed to contest on three seats.”

Friendly fights on some seats

In some seats, the alliance constituents agreed to hold “friendly” fights where a consensus could not be arrived at. The SP is likely to contest from the Byculla seat where the Congress has already declared a candidate, while for three seats of the PWP in Raigad, the Congress-NCP has decided to give their candidates. Similarly, in Nashik’s Kalwan — currently represented by the CPI(M) — both the CPI(M) and NCP will field candidates.

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