Major resentment is brewing among Congress workers in various parts of Maharashtra after the Nationalist Congress Party demanded at least 24 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state and then saw Sharad Pawar make overtures to Third Front parties in the same week.
A report prepared at the behest of the party’s top leadership and submitted to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to which Hindustan Times has access, has said that more than three-fourths of the party units across Maharashtra “are insistent that the Congress split with the NCP right now as the alliance has benefited the NCP more and a split at this moment is the only alternative to the complete annihilation of the Congress”.
The report, according to sources, is not being taken lightly, for Maharashtra is crucial to the fortunes of the UPA. A senior Congress leader told HT: “I was stunned by the resentment. Worker after worker has outright told us that they will not campaign for any NCP candidate.” That’s because, over five years at various local self-government (LSG) levels, the NCP has kept the Congress out and gone in for alliances with either the Shiv Sena or the BJP, thus decimating the Congress at various levels.
The greatest example of this is the Pune Municipal Corporation, where the NCP had a post-poll arrangement with the Sena to keep the Congress out. Now, sensing trouble, the NCP on Wednesday called off the arrangement. But Congress workers are not convinced. They warn that the NCP could ride piggyback again and then dump them at the crucial hour of government formation, as has happened at the LSG levels.
Former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh recently told HT that the alliance could win at least 32 of the 48 seats if it conducted its campaign well. But now senior leaders have rather modified that assessment. “We can win 32 seats all by ourselves. But the NCP cannot win outside Western Maharashtra without us.”
The report, therefore, urges the Congress president to make sure that the NCP does not manage to run away with more seats than it deserves. The NCP wants 24 or 26 seats and the Congress in Maharashtra is now unwilling to settle for less than 30 for itself. As usual, the matter is being left to Sonia Gandhi. Congressmen are hoping she will prove equal to Sharad Pawar.