Will Congress, NCP go for a straight swap?

Published on Nov 30, 2019 12:03 AM IST
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ByFaisal Malik and Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai

The tussle between the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress over the post of Assembly Speaker continued even after the formation of the government and two days ahead of the election for the post.

While the Speaker’s post is expected to go to the Congress and deputy chief minister’s post to the NCP, the parties could swap the posts after the floor test.

After hectic deliberations over the past three weeks between alliance partners, the power-sharing formula was finalised on Tuesday. The announcement led to a power tussle within the NCP, as Ajit Pawar was eyeing the post. State NCP chief Jayant Patil is expecting the post will come to him as he was made the legislative party leader of the NCP.

Hectic deliberations and claims continued between the Congress and NCP even on Friday, with another proposal of swapping the post coming to the fore.

“The Congress leadership had proposed Prithviraj Chavan’s name for the post of Speaker, but the NCP is against the appointment. On the other hand, the Congress had not given up on its demand for the post of deputy CM. As a compromise, we have given them the offer to swap the posts,” said a top Congress leader, requesting anonymity.

The NCP top brass is undecided over the deputy chief minister. “Making Ajit the deputy CM would mean rewarding him for his revolt and denying a chance to Patil who remained loyal to the party and played a role in getting rebel MLAs back. We would prefer to punish Ajit by denying him the post, but in that case, there is a danger of him engineering another split,” said a senior party leader.

“The decision however will not be taken before the trust vote is won by the government, as the infighting may jeopardise the exercise,” he said.

Ajit Pawar resorted to hectic lobbying and pressure tactics on Thursday, when the party decided that Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal will be sworn in as ministers. It is believed that owing to the pressure from Ajit Pawar, the decision of making Jayant Patil the deputy CM was put on hold.

On Friday, Ajit Pawar insisted that there was no change in the plan.

“It was decided during the discussion between the three parties that the chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena, while his deputy will be from the NCP. The Speaker’s post had gone to the Congress and deputy Speaker’s to the NCP.” Pawar said the names suggested by the chiefs of the respective parties were sworn-in on Thursday and the allocation of portfolios will be done in due time.

Another NCP leader said, “Congress leaders now want some changes to which we are not ready as it is not the way to run a coalition government. We have asked the Congress to suggest three names for the Speaker’s post, for which a deliberation is on in Delhi. The deadline to file nomination for the position is Saturday noon. We will discuss our strategy in a meeting on Saturday morning.”

The leader said the NCP was keen on taking up Speaker’s post, but the Congress insisted on it. If the plan to swap the posts fails, the Congress could field either KC Padvi or Varsha Gaikwad for the Speaker’s election. Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, whom party wanted to field as candidate, is reportedly not very keen for the post.

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