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Congress-NCP considering a reunion but will the bonhomie last till 2019?

They have already been talking about the necessity for the two parties to reunite if they want to take on the ruling BJP.

mumbai Updated: Jan 16, 2018 00:18 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Maharashtra politics,Congress-NCP alliance
The possibility of former allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coming together again is being talked about.(HT File)

The possibility of former allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coming together again is being talked about after Maharashtra Congress Chief Ashok Chavan last week said his party is open for an alliance with like-minded parties including the NCP for the 2019 elections.

Chavan has said something that is not surprising for leaders from both the parties. They have already been talking about the necessity for the two parties to reunite if they want to take on the ruling BJP.

Even though they lost 2014 assembly elections to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the general opinion in both the parties was that they were defeated because of the Modi wave that saw BJP sweeping to power in early 2014. The impact of the Modi wave continued as the people voted for the state assembly six months later. As such, they were sure that things would change after some time.

However, last year’s civic and district election results came as an eye-opener for them as the BJP swept municipal polls and bagged a significant number of district councils (zilla parishads).

The ruling party’s surge in both urban and rural areas shocked them which probably also set the tone for the two opposition parties coming together after their bitter divorce in 2014. Congress’ fight in recent assembly polls in neighbouring Gujarat also made the NCP realise that all is not over for its former ally.

Since 1999, when the Congress split in Maharashtra and Pawar walked out of the party to float the NCP, the two parties are forced to stay together to win power in the state. They contested separately in 1999 but came together to run the government. They share the same support base and as such contesting solo means splitting each other’s votes. When they first forged a pre-poll alliance in 2004, they won 140 seats (Congress 69, NCP 71) – close to 145 needed for simple majority in the state assembly. In 2009, the two parties again contested together and won 144 (Congress 82, NCP 62). Their relations turned bitter after 2010 as the NCP faced a series of allegations of corruption and the party leaders blamed the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan for the same.

They contested 2014 election separately and fared poorly. Congress’ tally halved to 42 while NCP could win only 41. Several leaders from both the sides opine that their situation would not have been as bad had the two parties stuck together. Faced with a ruling party that has maintained its political dominance in the state, leaders from both the parties are now inclined to reunite. Chavan’s remarks indicate the same.

However, the reunion of the two parties is not as easy as it sounds. What happened in the last three years before the 2014 elections led to deep mistrust between the two parties.

A section of Congress leaders are strongly against Pawar’s brand of politics. NCP’s decisions to first extend unconditional support to the BJP government in the state and its voting against senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat strengthened their belief.

The anti-NCP faction in Congress thinks that Pawar’s party is keeping its options open and can strike a deal with any of the three parties--BJP, Shiv Sena and Congress as per its convenience. Ironically, on Monday, it was the NCP that alleged Congress of helping the BJP as local units of Congress joined hands with BJP to keep NCP out of power in Gondia district council. That again underlines the fact that both the camps look at each other with suspicion.

Both the parties have also been trying to win maximum allies in the run-up to the 2019 elections. Attempts are being made from both the sides to rope in smaller parties like Peasants and Workers Party of India, Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Paksha (an ally of the BJP who quit the NDA last year), Janata Dal (S), Prakash Ambedkar-led BRP Bahujan Mahasangh, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, factions of Republican Party of India and the Left parties.

However, both parties know they won’t be in the reckoning till they come together and as such the ground is being made for a reunion. The problem is, 2019 elections is more than a year away which is a long period in politics.

First Published: Jan 16, 2018 00:17 IST