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Cong-NCP struggle to break the Maharashtra impasse

Source: PTI
November 02, 2009 08:51 IST
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Ten days after it came back to power, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance struggled to form a government in Maharashtra after another round of planned portfolio-sharing talks between the two parties on Sunday night failed to take place in Mumbai.

Leaders of the Congress and the NCP held meetings of their respective parties in Mumbai to find a way out of the portfolio-sharing impasse but gave no signs of quickly breaking the stalemate holding up government formation.

NCP is demanding 50 per cent of the total 42 portfolios while the Congress wants the number of ministries to be proportionate to the strength of the allies in the assembly and key ministries like home which was with NCP.

Leaders of Congress and NCP were scheduled to meet at 'Varsha', Chief Minister-designate Ashok Chavan's official residence. But NCP Legislature Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal said the NCP team would not be going to 'Varsha' to continue the talks. The talks were to be initially held in New Delhi but later shifted to Mumbai.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Manikrao Thakre and Mumbai unit chief Kripashankar Singh were at Chavan's residence. When contacted, Thakre said NCP leaders informed him that they were yet to conclude their internal deliberations on the issue of portfolio sharing.

"We will wait for them," Thakre said. The delay in government formation triggered calls by the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Eknath Khadse that the BJP-Shiv Sena opposition alliance will seek imposition of President's rule in the state if the new government is not in place by November 3, when the tenure of the present assembly expires.

But Chavan has dismissed suggestions of a Constitutional crisis in the state if the new government was not sworn-in by Tuesday.

As per the Constitution, the gap between two assembly sessions should not exceed six months. We have plenty of time," Chavan said. Earlier in the day, NCP's chief negotiator Praful Patel met his party chief Sharad Pawar and then went to 'Varsha' to meet Chavan's spiritual guru Satya Saibaba who was present there.

Manikrao Thakre sought to play down suggestions of any Constitutional crisis claiming leaders of both parties were making efforts to form the government. "We still have enough time," he said, adding that state leaders of the Congress held meetings at the Chief Minister's residence on Sunday to discuss government formation.

Alliance sources said that the power sharing agreement will be announced only after Central leaders of the Congress and the NCP meet at approve it.

The government formation process is deadlocked with NCP demanding equal sharing of portfolios and wants to stick to the 1999 formula while Congress which bagged 20 more seats than the NCP wants key posts of home, finance, power and rural development.

Besides, Congress is also eyeing the post of Legislative Assembly speaker. The two coalition partners who rode back to power for the third consecutive term in the elections the results of which were declared last week have broadly agreed to a 22:20 formula, sources said, adding that if the NCP does not part with home, it will have to give power and finance to the bigger ally.

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