NCP-Congress Alliance Splits in Maharashtra

NCP-Congress Alliance Splits in Maharashtra
File- PTI Photo
NCP-Congress Alliance Splits in Maharashtra

The 15-year-old Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra broke up today with the regional party deciding to contest next month's assembly polls on its own and pulling out of the government, setting the stage for its fall.

The development came a day after Congress announced its candidates for 118 seats and the failure by the two parties to reach an amicable settlement, bringing to an end 15 years of uninterrupted Congress-NCP coalition government in the state.

The NCP-Congress tie-up came about in 1999 ironically even after Sharad Pawar led a revolt against Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and formed the party. The NCP demanded that the two parties fight equal number of seats in 288-member assembly. In the last assembly elections, NCP had fought 114 seats and Congress 174.

"We have decided to end the alliance," state NCP president Sunil Tatkare told reporters blaming Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for not carrying forward the talks for seat- sharing.

"We always behaved like a responsible ally of Congress and even took the initiative to expedite seat-sharing talks. We had demanded half of the state's 288 seats and the Chief Minister's post for 2.5 years.

"However, Congress did not respond to our proposal by either rejecting it or forwarding a counter proposal," Praful Patel, senior party leader and a confidante of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, said.

Patel said the two sides met officially for the first time for seat-sharing talks on Tuesday but Chavan left for his hometown Karad yesterday without authorising anybody for negotiations. "Since yesterday, there has been no communication," he said.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, a bitter critic of Chavan, said NCP would pull out of the government and hand over a letter to the state Governor in this regard tomorrow.

"For the last 15 years, Congress has had the Chief Minister's post irrespective of whether they were the single largest party or not. In the recent Lok Sabha polls, we got double the seats than Congress and even in assembly constituency-wise analysis, NCP was ahead of Congress," Patel said defending the party's twin demands.

NCP had given up its claim to the Chief Minister's post after 2004 assembly polls when it had won 71 seats and Congress 69, in return for an additional cabinet berth and three positions of Ministers of State.

Ajit Pawar said never during the term of earlier Congress Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshkukh, Ashok Chavan or Sushilkumar Shinde had NCP felt so "neglected."

Tatkare voiced displeasure over Congress going ahead and announcing its first list of candidates yesterday when there had been talks about swapping of seats between the allies. He said NCP wanted Navapur, Malegaon central and Bhiwandi seats whose sitting MLAs had joined NCP but even before further talks could be held Congress announced its candidates.

Former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal expressed NCP's resolve to prevent communal forces from coming to power.

"We will ensure that the next government is not headed by communal forces," he said.

Bhujbal, an ex-Shiv Sena leader, said he was part of the alliance talks with BJP 25 years ago and later that of the Congress and NCP in 1999. "Incidentally, both alliances broke on the same day today," he said.


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