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NCP @20: Concerns over dip in vote share, its reliance on Pawar

The party’s reliance on Pawar is a cause for concern, according to some. “NCP will face existence issues after an ageing Pawar retires from politics.

mumbai Updated: Jun 11, 2019 04:16 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
NCP,maharashtra politics,mumbai polls
The party’s reliance on Pawar is a cause for concern, according to some. “NCP will face existence issues after an ageing Pawar retires from politics.(HTFile)

As the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) celebrated its 20th anniversary on Monday, its leaders urged party workers to look ahead at the upcoming state Assembly elections rather than dwelling on the Lok Sabha poll results. With a declining vote share since 2009, NCP faces challenges on its road to revival.

After enjoying power for 15 years in coalition with the Congress in the state and the Centre since it was incepted in 1999, being in the Opposition since 2014 has been a struggle for NCP. At an anniversary event held at YB Chavan Centre on Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar urged the party to look beyond traditional strongholds.

“NCP is known as a rural party, which is not a bad thing. But 50% population of the state resides in cities. We can see urbanisation in every tehsil. The party cannot get success by overlooking the urban areas,” he said. Previously, at an election review meeting, Pawar had advised the cadre to not be disheartened by the Lok Sabha election results. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party was restricted to just four members of Parliament (MPs).

The party’s reliance on Pawar is a cause for concern, according to some. “NCP will face existence issues after an ageing Pawar retires from politics. In my view, it will merge with the Congress in future,” said political analyst Prakash Bal. At the anniversary celebrations, NCP leader Ajit Pawar rubbished rumours of any merger and said NCP would retain its unique identity.

NCP’s vote share since 2009 shows a declining graph. “The coming Assembly elections are very important as the revival of the party now depends upon it. If we don’t get a significant chunk of 50+ seats now, we are going to face a survival crisis,’’ said a senior NCP leader requesting anonymity.

The first challenge will be keeping its flock together. Several senior leaders of the party deserted it ahead of the 2014 polls and another round of rebellion may be on the cards. Former NCP minister from Beed, Jaydutt Kshirsagar, joined Shiv Sena in May and former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil is expected join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Mohite Patil’s son Ranjitsinh joined the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

In the past five years, former minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit, his daughter and MP Heena Gavit, former ministers Babanrao Pachpute, Sanjay Savkare, Suresh Dhas, MP Sanjay Kaka Patil and former MLCs such as Niranjan Davkhare and Narendra Patil left the NCP to join BJP.

Furthermore, the party has failed to spread its base beyond its stronghold of western Maharashtra and, to a certain degree, Marathwada. NCP has poor presence in urban areas, the Konkan and Vidarbha. Additionally, NCP is held back by its leaders being implicated in scams. Former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal is accused of money laundering in the Maharashtra Sadan scam while Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare are being probed for their roles in the irrigation scam.

However, party spokesperson Sanjay Tatkare said, “There is no reason to lose hope as the party managed to get 15.5% votes in the Lok Sabha polls. If combined it with Congress vote share (16.27%), the total comes to around 32% vote share, which is not too low if compared with BJP and Shiv Sena’s vote share that comes to over 50%. Also, Assembly elections are more local compared to Lok Sabha polls.”

Political analyst Abhay Deshpande said, “Both NCP and Congress are now not in a position to contest polls alone. Their performance and presence will be restricted. NCP can only hope to be the big brother in the coalition. It will try to get more seats from Congress for Assembly polls.’’

First Published: Jun 11, 2019 04:16 IST