Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is against an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party, was made chairman of the Congress election management committee on Friday, possibly raising questions over the tie-up in the Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
Deshmukh's appointment to the key post by Congress president Sonia Gandhi came close on the heels of All India Congress Committee's statement that the NCP needed to accept "new ground realities"during seat sharing. The appointment was announced by AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi. Shortly after the announcement, Deshmukh told PTI that the party's state election committee was meeting in Mumbai from Saturday and "We are preparing for all the 288 seats".
The statement of AICC spokesman Manish Tewari about the "new ground realities" coincided with the remarks in Mumbai of Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre that the alliance would be freshly renegotiated, focusing on new parameters for seat-sharing in the 288-member Assembly.
Incidentally, Deshmukh had also headed the committee during the recent Lok Sabha elections in which Congress won 17
out of the 26 seats that came its way in seat sharing with NCP. The NCP had won just eight and suffered reverses in western Maharashtra, a known stronghold of Sharad Pawar.
Findings of a pre-poll survey conducted by the Congress have enthused those partymen who are against a pre-poll tieup
with NCP. Party sources claim that the survey showed that the Congress could win 100 to 108 seats if it contested alone but its tally would drop if it aligned with NCP. Another Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was appointed Chairman of the Campaign Committee for Maharashtra elections a few days back. Asked at the AICC briefing whether the alliance would take place, Tewari merely said "I have no indications to the contrary at the moment".
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told NDTV that he hoped that "things would work out properly" in connection with
the pre-poll alliance with the NCP. He also said that Congress being a national party should get more number of seats than the NCP in the seat sharing arrangement. "Obviously, we being a national party and our performance in the state has certainly been better than five years ago. We ought to get more number of seats in what was being discussed. NCP is also reconciled to that," Chavan said.