After its impressive showing in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress is getting ready to drive a hard bargain with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), its alliance partner in Maharashtra. The western state is to due for assembly polls in October.
The party plans to contest more than the 166 seats it did in 2004 as part of its seat-sharing arrangement with the NCP for the 288-member assembly.
It is believed that the arrangement can’t hold this time. The Congress performed better than the NCP in the Lok Sabha polls. It won 17 seats against the NCP’s eight in the elections held this year, and delimitation has changed the profile of constituencies.
The first sign of the Congress’s intent came when Union ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Prithviraj Chavan urged the party to go it alone in the state elections.
On Tuesday, Deshmukh, a former Maharashtra CM, said party workers should be allowed to express views on the subject before the Congress Working Committee, which may meet soon.
But a section is in favour of continuing the tie-up. Its logic: the longer Sharad Pawar’s party remains with the Congress, greater are the chances of it losing its relevance as a separate entity. Keeping it out may give it a fresh lease of life, it reasons.
The NCP is trying to come to grips with the psychological impact of the Congress’s victory. Power struggle in the second rung and political repercussions of Padamsinh Patil’s alleged involvement in a murder case are its other concerns.
But Congress chief Sonia Gandhi herself is not known to forsake an ally unless the latter walks out.