The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday meekly accepted the seat-sharing formula offered by the Congress for the Kalyan-Dombivli civic polls to be held at the end of the month.
The Congress will contest from 55 seats while the NCP will get 52 seats. Madhukar Pichad, president of NCP’s state unit, announced the alliance saying that the NCP had accepted the formula despite sentiments from its cadre that the party deserved more seats to ensure a secular front against the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Kalyan-Dombivli.
Last week, NCP’s parliamentary board had rejected the Congress’ seat sharing formula. The party had nominated Ajit Pawar, water resources minister, to lead negotiations and wrest more seats from the ally. Pawar had said that the NCP would get at least one seat more than the Congress.
The NCP’s turnaround on Wednesday surprised many. Political observers said the NCP backtracked after Congress gave a tacit signal that it could align with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for the elections. “Raj Thackeray met Ashok Chavan, chief minister, on Tuesday. It was a clear hint that the NCP should fall in line,’’ a party source.
A section of NCP leaders was keen that the party goes to polls alone keeping the choice of forging an alliance after the elections open.
Madan Bafna, NCP spokesperson, dismissed this suggestion. “There was a demand from grass root workers that the NCP get a better deal, so the parliamentary board suggested that Pawar negotiate,” Bafna said. “There is no question of a turnaround. Our intention was to ensure a poll alliance in any case.’’
Pichad and Manikrao Thakre, Congress party president, held a meeting that went on until late on Tuesday before they finalised the decision.
“Before finalising, I checked with my party top brass,” Pichad said. “I spoke to Mr [Sharad] Pawar in Delhi, who said go ahead with the poll alliance and stop the negotiations.”
Sanjay Dutt, Congress general secretary, welcomed the NCP’s decision. “We will together beat the Sena-BJP. In the last polls, we were three seats short of the Sena-BJP’s tally. We will win more seats this time,” he said.