The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the second largest UPA constituent and the Congress party’s oldest ally, has decided to field candidates from 70 assembly seats in Delhi in the forthcoming elections.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has apparently given the go-ahead to the move that is bound to rub the ruling Congress on the wrong side.
The development also coincided with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s assertion in Pune that his party would not need allies such as the NCP if it gets more seats in 2014 than 2009.
Confirming the move, Delhi NCP leader Kanwar Pratap Singh Chaudhary told HT that his party has started scouting “suitable candidates” for all the 70 assembly seats. The party had fought on 16 seats in the 2008 assembly elections but failed to open its account. Its vote share then was 3%.
“We hope to win substantial seats this time. Our cadre is very excited and we will put up a tough fight for Congress and BJP both,” he said.
The NCP is part of the Congress-led alliance at the Centre from 2004 and in Maharashtra since 1999 but their relations have been blow-hot-blow-cold as the two parties have in the past sparred on many issues, including rising food prices and the Lavasa project near Pune. The Congress has on many occasions blamed Pawar - though indirectly -- for the hike in food prices. The NCP has retaliated by attacking the Congress on frequent fuel hikes.
Chaudhary said the NCP will take on the Congress on the development plank with the water issue being the main talking point of its campaign. The party has deliberately chosen the water issue as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal is fighting the elections on the plank of corruption and inflated electricity bills in the Capital.
“It has been 66 years since independence but the residents of Delhi are still not getting safe drinking water,” Chaudhary said.
However, Congress leaders said the NCP is contesting the Delhi elections only to maintain its national party status. “It’s just a fringe player,” a Congress leader said.