There are practical difficulties in renewing the alliance with the NCP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Assembly polls in Maharashtra, the Congress says but is hopeful that an amicable solution can be worked out. The two opposition parties had an acrimonious break-up ahead of the 2014 state polls. Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said had the NCP not withdrawn support and called off the tie-up, the alliance together would have got 35 per cent votes. “Contesting separately was a loss to both the parties,” he said. The former chief minister admitted there were practical difficulties in renewing the alliance. “Yes, difficulties are there. But both parties must remember they were in power for 15 years in the state and can work out an amicable solution,” he said. A Congress source said there has to be a “win-win situation” for both the parties to forge a tie-up. “It’s too early to come to a final decision. There are practical difficulties. The Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha by-poll will be a precursor to what happens later,” the source said. Nana Patole, the sitting BJP MP from the Bhandara-Gondia seat, recently quit the party and returned to the Congress, necessitating the by-election. Both the Congress and the NCP are now staking claim to contest the by-poll.
However, the Congress workers and leaders in Gondia are not in favour of an alliance with the NCP. “They (NCP) don’t fulfil their commitment in an alliance and are trying to lure the Congress workers into their fold,” a Congress leader from Gondia said, adding that they have informed the state leadership about their views. Interestingly, in the Bhandara zilla parishad poll slated tomorrow, the Congress has joined hands with the NCP. But, for the Gondia zilla parishad poll, also scheduled for tomorrow, the Congress has tied-up with the BJP.
“The main question will be who is the big brother in the alliance,” the Congress source said, referring to his party’s refusal to accept the NCP’s demand for equal seat sharing in the 2014 polls for the 288-member state Assembly. At that time, the NCP also wanted equal sharing of the the tenure of the chief minister’s post. The source said these were among the main reasons for the break-up of the two parties in 2014 after being in power for 15 years.
Meanwhile, an NCP leader said practical difficulties need to be sorted out as the 2014 Assembly poll results showed that contesting the elections independently cost the former alliance partners the government of 15 years. “(Senior Congress leader) Ashok Chavan is positive about an alliance. Let’s see if his party leaders support him,” the NCP leader said. He, however, said their claim on the Bhandara-Gondia seat remains since the NCP had contested it in 2014 when both his party and the Congress fought the Lok Sabha polls in alliance.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said, “Since both the parties contested the last Assembly polls separately, finalising a seat-sharing alliance for 2019 shouldn’t be a problem as the 2014 figures of who won which seat and came second in which seat are already available.” He said that after 2014, the NCP and the Congress had contested all the by-elections together.