Flexing its muscles ahead of the assembly polls, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday threatened to break its 15-year-old alliance with the Congress by announcing that it would contest the polls alone if its ally does not concede to its demand of half the total seats.
Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister and NCP leader, said his party wanted to contest 144 of a total 288 assembly seats. "If the Congress does not meet our demand, the NCP will contest on all 288 seats. Party workers should be ready to fight on all seats," said Pawar while addressing a rally in Ahmednagar. In the 2009 polls, the NCP had contested 114 seats, while the remaining were contested by the Congress.
Pawar even suggested that all political outfits in the state should contest the elections separately. "This will show who is the stronger party in the state. However, this is my personal opinion and my party has nothing to do with this suggestion," he said.
"The Shiv Sena has been ruling the BMC for the last 17 years. Still, Mumbai's roads are pothole- ridden. The city's infrastructure is in its worst condition. Same with the MNS, which has been ruling the Nashik Municipal Corporation for past five years. What happened? No development at all. The people are shrewd, they know whom to vote for in the assembly polls," said Pawar.
The leader also defended the decision on the Maratha and Muslim reservations saying that the state government would not disturb other backward caste reservations.
NCP state president Sunil Tatkare, the OBC face of the party, also reiterated Pawar's demand. "In 2009, we gave more seats to Congress because they had won the maximum Lok Sabha seats. This year, we had won four seats, while the Congress won merely two in the recent Lok Sabha polls. So by this logic, the NCP should have an upper hand in seat-sharing. We will field candidates on all 288 seats if the Congress does not concede more seats to us," said Tatkare.
Sources in the Congress said this was nothing but a pressure tactic used by NCP leaders. "Ahead of each election, the NCP comes out with such absurd demands. But when we sit together and start discussions about seat-sharing, they become reasonable. It is not the time to fight the elections alone. Secular forces should not be divided during the polls, otherwise saffron forces will get a chance to come to power. And this is not good for the state," said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named.
Congressmen huddle to discuss strategy
The Congress has begun holding region-wise meetings of its party leaders and workers to discuss its strategy ahead of state assembly polls. On Thursday and Friday, western Maharashtra leaders and Marathawada region leaders were called for meetings respectively. The meetings were attended by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, MPCC president Manikrao Thakre, and AICC general secretary and state observer Mohan Prakash.