They had all come together to keep the ruling BJP at bay but as campaigning for the October 21 Assembly election picks up, the gloves are off as far as the Opposition’s rainbow coalition is concerned.
On Wednesday, SP’s state president Abu Asim Azmi told The Indian Express that his party had “broken away” from the Congress-led alliance, while Maharashtra CPI(M) leader Dr Ajit Navle denied that the party had joined the alliance at all.
“We have ideological differences on several issues with the Congress and the NCP. The question of stitching an alliance with them does not arise. What we have struck with them is an electoral understanding to keep the BJP and the communal forces at bay,” said Navle.
On October 7, while releasing a joint manifesto of the United Progressive Alliance, the Congress and NCP had declared that the CPI, CPI(M), SP, and the Peasants and Workers Party, the Swabhimaani Shetkari Sanghthana, among others, were a part of the alliance. The joint manifesto carried the names of these parties as well.
Navle’s remarks come a day after senior CPI(M) leader Narsayya Adam, who has challenged Congress’s Praniti Shinde, from the Solapur Central assembly seat, took sharp digs at her father and former Maharashtra chief minister Sushikumar Shinde during a poll campaign. “I won’t sit quietly before sending your (Praniti’s) father to jail,” Adam had quipped at the campaign rally, evoking an angry response from the Congress workers.
While the CPI(M) has struck an “understanding” with the Congress and the NCP for two seats, there are six other seats where it is contesting independently.
All is not well in the arrangements with the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) either. While the alliance members had earlier declared that Western Maharashtra’s Sangola seat had been offered to the PWP, local NCP leader Deepak Salunkhe has entered the fray. Eventually, on October 7, NCP leader Ajit Pawar had to announce that the party workers should not support its own candidate, but back PWP as the alliance’s nominee on the seat.
In Karmala, too, Pawar has asked NCP supporters to ignore party candidate Sanjay Patil and vote in favour of an independent, Sanjay Shinde. In Shrigonda, party’s sitting MLA Rahul Jagtap refused to file nomination at the last-minute and as a result the alliance couldn’t field an official candidate for the seat.
Even between the Congress and the NCP, some differences have cropped up over Sushilkumar Shinde’s “untimely” remarks about a future merger of the two parties. On Tuesday, at an NCP event in Solapur, Shinde said, “The Congress and the NCP will come together and be one party. It (NCP) is fatigued and so are we,” said the former Union home Minister.
Shinde’s comment did not go down well with NCP president Sharad Pawar, who is seemingly also upset with the timing of the remarks, made in the thick of the election campaign. Taking a strong objection to it, Pawar, on Wednesday, said, “I know the condition my party is in. He (Sushilkumar Shinde) cannot speak about the NCP, he can speak about his own party.”
Shinde’s remarks also saw the ruling BJP fire barbs at both the parties. Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat also distanced himself from Shinde’s comment. “We are going to polls as two alliance partners. I cannot predict what will happen in the future,” he said.
Azmi, meanwhile, said, “The Congress has betrayed us. I wanted to fight elections on 57 seats. It was only because of my concern that secular votes should not get divided that I agreed to join hands with the Congress. After an initial discussion of seven seats we mutually arrived to a decision that the SP would fight on three seats as part of the alliance. These seats were Bhiwandi East, Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar and Aurangabad East. It (Congress) has now fielded their own candidate in Bhiwandi East, while it’s unit in Aurangabad is not supporting us.”