Was the division in the so-called "secular" votes responsible for the Shiv Sena's good showing in the recent civic polls? The jury may be out on that one, but Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is in favour of a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) pre-poll alliance for the forthcoming zilla parishad/panchayat samiti elections.
"I had suggested a pact with the NCP for the civic polls as well. We had it in some places but did not reach an agreement in other places," he told HT on Saturday. The parties also fought with each other, barring a few places, in the municipal council elections held in two phases before the civic polls.
However, after the civic poll debacle, the Democratic Front partners seem to have arrived at a conclusion that not agreeing on a seat-sharing formula cost them power at several places — Mumbai being the prime example of this.
Senior Congress-NCP leaders including Deshmukh and Union Aviation Minister Praful Patel were unable to issue a diktat to local leaders — and finally sided with popular demand in their respective parties. This time, too, the local leadership had been given the power to decide a possible pact with NCP, Deshmukh said. "Like-minded people are already discussing an alliance at several places."
Congress sources said the party was more cautious this time as these polls would decide who rules rural Maharashtra. Congress got over 30 per cent urban and semi-urban votes in the council and civic polls. NCP stood second at 28 per cent.
But in rural Maharashtra, except in the western region, Congress still wields a significant clout. So it may again try playing big brother to the NCP. This, political pundits feel, may not work in favour of pact formation.