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Cong in dilemma on continuing alliance with NCP

Source: PTI
September 13, 2009 17:29 IST
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With a month to go for Maharashtra assembly polls, Congress is facing a dilemma on continuance of its alliance with Nationalist Congress Party as a group in the party led by a Union minister is wanting the leadership to dump that party and go it alone in the elections.

A decision by Congress President Sonia Gandhi is expected to be made anytime now amid a keen tussle in the party over the issue of alliance.

Union Minister and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is leading the group which wants the NCP to be dumped. The Lok Sabha election results in the state in which the Congress secured 17 and the NCP mere 8 seats is reason enough for the party to think afresh, say the Congress detractors of Pawar.

This section feels that there is a "remote" possibility about the alliance continuing in view of the changed dynamics after the Lok Sabha elections.

The delimitation exercise has also changed the profile of the constituencies. The anti-alliance group feels that the Lok Sabha polls showed that Pawar was facing a tough time in his stronghold of Western Maharashtra and, therefore, it is time to reclaim the sugar rich region, which is dominant in state politics.

All India Congresss Commitee General Secretary and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, had also talked of the need for friendly fights between the Congress and NCP at least in this region.

The rationale behind this argument is that if there were no friendly fights and Congress is not in the fray, the Shiv Sena will grow in this region, which has generally remained a Congress territory till Pawar parted ways ten years back.

A section of the Congress feels that the NCP is a 'house devastated' after the Lok Sabha elections and that some of its leaders are ready to crossover to Congress if the party went alone and fought all the 288 assembly seats in the state.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde want the alliance to continue as the pro-alliance leaders feel that unity of secular forces is necessary to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena from coming to power.

Those pitching for the alliance say Pawar is a fighter and a hard working leader known for his organization skills. Despite the setback for the NCP in the Lok Sabha polls, Pawar cannot be written off and can win 50 to 60 seats, analysts feel.

Another section feels that if Pawar's offer of continuing the alliance was spurned by Congress, then the Maratha strongman could spring a surprise on Congress as he is the only politician who knows Maharashta meticulously and knows the social arithmetic of each of the assembly seat.

Another argument by the pro-alliance section is that the battle of the ballot in Maharashta is no cakewalk and is evenly poised. A move to marginalize Pawar at this juncture could mean helping the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, which is going the extra mile to put up a united fight to end its 10-year long political wilderness.

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