With the critical talks for sharing of seats between the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP in Maharashtra set to resume by next week, the junior ally of the Congress has started flexing its muscles.
A party source said that the NCP is not keen to hold joint rallies with the top Congress leaders. While joint campaigns between the local leadership are likely to take place across several districts, the NCP brass is likely to maintain a distance with its partner in the campaign.
The NCP leadership has also made it clear to the Congress brass that the negotiations on seats would be held in New Delhi and not Mumbai. The move is aimed to bypass the state-level leadership of the Congress and talk directly to the central leaders. “The state-level leaders do not have the authority to take any final decision on the seats. Moreover, earlier the talks were held in Delhi and not in Mumbai,” said a senior NCP leader.
The biggest bone of contention for the Congress however, is that NCP leader and Union minister Praful Patel is all set to share stage with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for a public function next week. Sources close to Patel told HT that while the programme is a non-political event the NCP leadership is eyeing it to send a political message.
Last week, both Patel and Pawar had been critical of the Congress’ stand on the issue and argued that efforts to link Modi with the 2002 riots should stop after a Gujarat court accepted the Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigating Team’s findings absolving him of any direct involvement in the riots.
Patel’s comments had come just days after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had accused Modi for the first time in an interview for abetting the post-Godhra riots and was vocal about Modi’s government helping rioters.