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NCP tells Congress to decide on seat-sharing for 2019 polls in Maharashtra

Pawar tells Gandhi to take a call by end of month; both keen on taking smaller parties along

mumbai Updated: Oct 13, 2018 00:16 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
2019 polls,Maharashtra assembly elections,NCP
Senior Congress and NCP leaders during a meeting in Mumbai on Friday.(HT)

In a step ahead in the plan for a pre-poll alliance, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to decide on the sharing of seats by the end of the month. Pawar believes this will help the parties start their joint campaign in Maharashtra with full vigour.

While the two parties decided to come together to give a tough fight to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), they are also trying to get small parties on board for a mega alliance.

The NCP is reportedly keen on getting equal number of seats as the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections. Pawar conveyed this message to the Congress president in a meeting in August, after which leaders from both the parties have been meeting to work out a formula that is acceptable to all.

The NCP states their demand is based on the equal strength that both the parties share in the state currently.

“On Thursday, Pawar and Gandhi met in New Delhi to discuss issues related to alliance. In the meet, Pawar suggested Gandhi decide the seat-sharing formula by this month-end. This will enable both the parties to kick off a joint campaign for all Lok Sabha constituencies early,” said a senior NCP leader, close to Pawar.

In 2014 too, the old allies had come together for the polls. The Congress took 26 seats, while NCP contested 22 seats.

Despite that, the Congress could win only two seats, while the NCP managed a victory on four seats. In the state Assembly, the Congress and NCP have 42 and 41 MLAs, respectively.

Pawar said that each constituency comprises around 2,000 villages and candidates need enough time for campaigning, said the leader.

Senior Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Mallikarjun Kharge and senior NCP leader Praful Patel were also present at the meet.The developments of the Gandhi-Pawar meeting were discussed in the extended core committee of the NCP in Mumbai on Friday.

Later, the state leaders of the two parties had a separate meeting in the evening.

Besides state Congress chief Ashok Chavan, leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, Sharad Ranpise from Congress; and NCP’s Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar, Dilip Valse Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal were present at the meeting.

“We held primary talks about the candidates and constituency in the meeting,” said Chavan, after the meeting.

State NCP chief Jayant Patil said winnability will be a major criterion for seat-sharing.

“We never demanded 50% seats. Winning maximum seats is important and the sharing of the seats will be based on the winning prospects,” he said.

Although Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh has announced his plan to join hands with AIMIM, the Congress-NCP is still hopeful of convincing him to be part of the grand alliance.

The alliance is also hopeful that Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha will join them. Shetti had a round of meeting with Ambedkar last week.

Party leaders also discussed the drought situation in parts of the state.

(Inputs from Surendra P Gangan)

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 00:16 IST