Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar will jointly address rally in Maharashtra for the first time.(PTI)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar will jointly address rally in Maharashtra for the first time.(PTI)

Congress-NCP plan Pawar, Rahul rally to kick off Maharashtra poll campaign

With the 2019 general elections just four months away, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — re-energised by their gains in the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh Assembly polls — are planning to sound the poll bugle in Maharashtra with a joint rally that will be helmed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
By Faisal Malik | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON DEC 21, 2018 12:37 AM IST

With the 2019 general elections just four months away, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — re-energised by their gains in the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh Assembly polls — are planning to sound the poll bugle in Maharashtra with a joint rally that will be helmed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

The rally, to be held in February 2019, will be the parties’ first joint address in Maharashtra.

The former allies have decided to contest both the Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly polls in the state, later in 2019 , together.

They are also planning to bring together smaller, like-minded parties at this rally, to showcase themselves as a strong front against the ruling saffron combine of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena.

The decision was taken at a meeting held on Wednesday, and confirmed by state Congress president Ashok Chavan.

“The NCP is starting a statewide agitation from January, and also the fifth leg of our ‘Jan Sangharsh Yatra’ to cover the Vidarbha region is yet to start. After these agitations, we will hold the rally,” Chavan said.

“We are planning to kick-off the joint campaign of the Opposition in the state soon. We are also planning to hold rallies across the state, and hold a big public rally that which will be attended by the Congress president and the NCP chief,” another a senior Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.

The Jan Sangharsh Yatra is aimed at questioning the BJP over issues such as the agrarian crisis, unrest among communities over reservation, and rising debt. The NCP has declared it will start its statewide ‘Parivartan Yatra’ from Mahad in Raigad from January 9.

However, the seat-sharing deal between the alliance partners has not been resolved yet. The Congress and NCP have reached a seat-sharing agreement for 40 of the 48 seats Lok Sabha from Maharashtra, but are yet to find an amicable solution for the eight seats. Attempts are being made to convince the Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), which has a good presence in the Vidarbha region — considered as a BJP bastion. But this has failed to yield any result so far, another senior leader said, wishing not to be named. The parties continued their seat sharing talks with other parties, including the Peasants and Workers Party, Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Shetkari Sangh, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi and some factions of the Republican Party of India. The talks will continue on Friday.

They also held talks with Ambedkar. “We have asked him to leave the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) if he wants to join us. Ambedkar said he will decide and inform us,” said a senior leader privy to the development. However, Ambedkar later told news channels he would not leave the AIMIM.

“The talks between parties are going on in a positive way. We all are firm on our decision to avoid division of votes, and thus, a decision on seat-sharing is now only a matter of time. Currently, we are discussing things with other like-minded parties and bring consensus on all the issues,” Chavan said.

Meanwhile, in the saffron camp, despite speculation of seat-sharing talks, a senior BJP minister said no seat-sharing details for assembly or the general polls had been discussed yet. The Sena is expected to take a call on an alliance after the party rally in Pandharpur on Friday.

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