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BJP’s loss in UP and Bihar to speed up efforts for Opposition unity in Maharashtra

On January 26, Pawar led Opposition leaders in a Save the Constitution march in Mumbai. Since then, the bonhomie between the Opposition parties in the state is visible.

mumbai Updated: Mar 16, 2018 10:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,BJP
Congress-NCP leaders are also in touch with leaders of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), Janata Dal (S) and Samajwadi Party.(HT FILE)

The BJP’s loss to Opposition parties in the bypolls to three Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are likely to have repercussions closer home. The results may just boost ongoing efforts to forge an Opposition alliance in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena has already refuted any possibility of an alliance with the BJP.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi calling on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in New Delhi on Wednesday was another indication. This happened a day after Pawar attended a dinner for Opposition leaders hosted by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and on the day the Lok Sabha bypoll results were declared.

“It [Rahul Gandhi visit] was a courtesy call. The efforts to bring together non-BJP parties have gained momentum,”said NCP Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon. “Soniaji and Pawarsaab, along with other like-minded parties are all set to create a formidable secular front,” he added.

In Maharashtra, this means deliberations by leaders from both parties for an alliance, which will likely include smaller opposition parties to avoid a split in anti-BJP votes, will now gain momentum.

“Soniaji and Rahulji have started unifying the Opposition. In Maharashtra, we have been talking to NCP leaders for an alliance. Our consideration is that it should be a win-win for both parties,”said Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan. “We are also planning to get other opposition parties to join hands with us,” he added.

After ruling the state together for 15 years, the Congress and the NCP parted ways ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections, which saw the BJP emerging as the single largest party, while the two parties suffered rout. The relations between the two parties worsened after the NCP extended unconditional support to the BJP, which was 23 short of a simple majority in the state Assembly. However, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis later managed to get Shiv Sena on board and the NCP’s support became irrelevant for the BJP. For the past one year, the NCP has taken a strong stand against the BJP government in the state. At the same time, the two parties have started working together on issues such as farm loan waiver. Last month, leaders from both sides started informal talks for a future alliance because they believe the two parties can return to power in Maharashtra if they contest elections together.

On January 26, Pawar led Opposition leaders in a Save the Constitution march in Mumbai. Since then, the bonhomie between the Opposition parties in the state is visible.

Congress-NCP leaders are also in touch with leaders of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), Janata Dal (S) and Samajwadi Party.

NCP state president Sunil Tatkare confirmed the developments. “We are forging an opposition unity in the interest of the state. We are already talking to the Congress. The PWP is with us. In coming days we will also talk to other parties,”he said.

PWP leader Jayant Patil said: “For quite some time, we (opposition leaders) have been meeting informally. Two days ago, when senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury was in city, we discussed this issue in presence of leaders from different Left outfits.”

The last time the non-BJP, non-Sena parties had forged a pre-poll alliance in Maharashtra was during 1998 Lok Sabha elections when the Congress led alliance had won 38 out of 48 seats.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena leaders refuted any possibility of changing its decision to go solo and forge a pre-poll alliance with the BJP. On Wednesday, senior BJP leader and state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had stated that the BJP would have an alliance with the Sena in the upcoming polls.

“Mungantiwar might have made a statement, but whatever Uddhavji has spoken about the alliance and the party’s resolution, which was passed in the national executive in January, to contest solo in the upcoming elections, still stands. The Sena chief takes the final call on all decisions in the party,” said Anil Desai, senior Sena leader.

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 10:24 IST