Maharashtra Congress has adopted an aggressive stance while dealing with its own poll ally union agricultural minister Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to boost the morale of its rank and file confused over series of allegation of corruption against UPA II government during last six months. Ever since Congress formed its first coalition government along with NCP inMaharashtraway back in 1999, it has always been in two minds while handling its poll ally. NCP has not camouflaged its ambition to emerge as largest group in the 288-member state legislative assembly to rule the state. Pawar very well knows that with the kind of fragmented polity exists in the state today, it will be almost impossible to dream of winning the state on its own strength.

In fact Pawar and his young team had successfully trailed the state Congress behind by winning a couple of more seats in year 2004, but the Congress somehow managed to regain its position as the single largest party in 2009 elections. UPA II government inDelhiand third term of the Congress-NCP coalition government in the state has not been very comfortable experience for both the parties. The allegations of corruption made by the anti-corruption fronts led by Gandhian crusader Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have targeted many leading ministers from both the partiesinDelhias well as Mumbai.

Pawar has realised that along with the anti-incumbency factor, the DF alliance inMaharashtrawill have to also face attack by the opposition as well as the crusaders and Kejriwal’s new political outfit which will selectively target few political heavy weights. As an effort to nullify these two major factors, NCP has begun devising ways to win over popular votes. He has advised his party workers to become more aggressive to hit back at the opposition and support government schemes providing direct benefits to various social groups.

The Congress high command which is busy dealing with Kejriwal and Janata Party’s Subramanian Swamy inDelhiis not very happy with developments inMaharashtrawhere state unit of the party is always on back foot. Apart from providing good governance to the state, the high command has been expecting from its chief ministers in the state to preserve and expand party’s base in the state. Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde was more tactful while Vilasrao Deshmukh who ruled the state for two terms during last decade was more aggressive. Ashok Chavan who got embroiled in Adarsh scam also proved to be a tough player during the last elections held in year 2009. It is difficult task to run the coalition administration and at the same time try to expand political party’s base without hurting the coalition partner. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is trying to strike a balance between good governance and political compulsions due to running a coalition government. He has faced a lot of pressure from the NCP on the ground that he does not take quick decisions while Chavan wants to ensure that the Congress gets credit for good governance.

There has always been competition between the Congress and the NCP to take credit for good decisions taken by the coalition government while shifting blame to others for failures. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Vidarbha and later relief packages were worked out for farmers, the NCP was quick to take credit for the package and lauded agriculture minister and its president Sharad Pawar. Pawar was involved in working out details of the relief package. This trend has continued so far, while the Congress always reacting little late than the alert machinery of the NCP.

With Rahul Gandhi slowly taking over reins of the Congress apparatus inDelhi, things have begun changing in the way state units of the party are run. According to insiders, the MPCC has begun adopting more aggressive stance as far its poll ally is concerned.  The MPCC has become more aggressive and attacks are being launched by none other than MPCC president Manikrao Thakare who is known for his mild manners. It appears that as a strategy, the MPCC has decided to target the BJP first and also hit out at NCP which always tries to brow beat its senior partner.  Thakare picked from anti-corruption crusader Arun Kejriwal and launched fresh attacks on BJP president Nitin Gadkari for financial mismanagement of his leading firm Purti sugars and infrastructure. NCP has hit out at the Congress on the issue of hike in LPG prices and duel pricing for LPG cylinders to be distributed in the state. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik has already announced the party’s protest programme to hit the streets if the state government fails to provide three more cylinders at subsidised rates along with annual quota of six cylinders to each and every family. NCP MP Supriya Sule has also demanded early decision on the issue realising anger welling up among women voters in the state. She also called on the CM and reiterated her demand.

The Congress did not liked the language used by the NCP in demanding decision on LPG within a week blaming chief minister for delay in taking decision. Thakare was quick to counter such attack saying that the government is committed to give more cylinders at subsidised rates but decision making take its own time. “The union government has already informed state government to provide three additional cylinders along with six subsidised cylinders in coalition government, it is not right for one partner to blame another partner,” he pointed out. Thakare also hit out at the NCP while addressing an election rally in Thane district saying that there were more criminals in the NCP than the Congress Party indicating new aggressive stance adopted by the Congress in the state. Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar who is touring the state for consolidating NCP position asserted that these days of RTI and PIL, anybody can go to court against any public figure. If the Congress has any information about such criminal elements, then who has stopped them from approaching the police and booking such elements, he asked the MPCC.

There are limitations for Chavan to take on the NCP since he has to run the coalition government in the state and has to consult and make consensus on so many contentious issues including how to provide nine cylinders per year. He has kept Sharad Pawar in good books as he is very well aware that he cannot expect a smooth run unless he consults the big boss of NCP. Vilasrao Deshmukh who had initially adopted a very tough stand while dealing with the NCP had to mellow down as it affected the administration of the state. As a well thought of strategy, Chavan will ensure smooth administration along with NCP, while Thakare will be more aggressive to take credit and attack the NCP if required to safeguard interests of the Congress Party which he leads in the state.

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