As it is being wooed by the Shiv Sena-BJP to join hands in municipal bodies of ten cities, Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has decided to stick with the Congress rather than joining hands with the saffron combine.
"Our party chief Sharad Pawar has made it clear that the NCP will join hands only with the like minded and secular parties and Sena or BJP are not on our list for the same," said NCP State President Arun Gujarathi.
For the past two days, the Sena has been making overtures to NCP. Sena Executive president Uddhav Thackeray has reiterated the stand taken by his father and Sena Chief Bal Thackeray that his party would like to go with NCP.
In elections to the ten civic bodies including Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Congress took a severe beating while the saffron combine won six municipalities including the BMC, India's richest municipal corporation. The NCP failed in Mumbai and lost majority in Ulhasnagar but its performance was impressive in other cities including Pune where it emerged as a single largest party. The saffron combine needs NCP's help to win absolute majority in Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Thane municipal corporations whereas Congress needs NCP for the same in Solapur, Nashik, Amravati and Akola civic bodies.
Though the fractured mandate has made NCP the most sought after party, Pawar on Monday told his colleagues to stick to an alliance with Congress at local levels in cities. He had a closed door meeting with party's top brass in Maharashtra on Monday as the party is still finding out what went wrong with its plans to make it big in Mumbai.
Reacting on NCP's response, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said: "Our executive president Uddhav Thackeray had made an appeal as the voters' have thrown a fractured mandate and absolute majority is needed for good governance. If NCP is terming us as communal then they should realise that Congress is most communal party in India as it keeps appeasing Muslims forcing Hindus to unite."
Despite its tall claims that its strength in Mumbai had increased manifold since 2002 civic polls, the results of February 1 elections showed that the party had little to boast about. Its tally remained stagnant at 14 though its vote share improved a little.
"Over the next few days we will have to introspect why our vote share has not gone beyond a limited number," said party's Mumbai unit executive president Nawab Malik.
Pawar's pointsman for Mumbai elections and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has already pointed out that the party has failed to build its own voters' base in Mumbai.