Nationalist Congress Party president (NCP) Sharad Pawar has put the organisation in poll mode. Signing off his two-day tour to Mumbai, Pawar gave a loud and clear message to the party to begin preparations for parliamentary elections, which can be pushed ahead of its scheduled 2014 date.
An AICC functionary substantiated Pawar’s predictions by saying: “The Congress goal is to smoothly pass the 2013 budget. The biggest challenge for the Centre is to keep the coalition intact till the next budget, which is seven months away. If the alliance partners make the going difficult, we will have to go for earlier parliament elections.”
An insight into what transpired at the closed-door meeting, which Pawar held with half-a-dozen top and confidential NCP leaders in Mumbai, shows the elections weighed heavily on his mind.
A senior leader said: “The aim of the meeting was to get the party ready for polls. We dwelt on strategy to make inroads in the Congress bastion.”
While Pawar maintained that the UPA may not fall immediately, alliance partners supporting Congress are certainly going to take to the streets to protest against their policies. In such a scenario, NCP should be ready to consolidate their numbers in parliament as well as the state assembly polls.
The NCP has only nine of the total 48 seats in Lok Sabha. The party looks to take the tally up to 18 seats in Lok Sabha. In the state assembly, NCP has 63 seats of 288 seats. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar has embarked on a ambitious goal of taking the tally upto 90 seats, overtaking Congress. The NCP high command told party leaders to exploit the leadership crisis of the Congress in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions.
The death of union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on the one hand and the embroilment of former CM Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing scam has rendered the state Congress leaderless in the Marathwada region, which has 48 assembly seats and eight parliament seats.
In Vidarbha, which has always been the traditional Congress stronghold, the party suffers from another leadership crisis. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, who represents the Vidarbha region, finds himself at crossroads with all local leaders.