Pawar, Sonia sew up state electoral pact

New Delhi :  Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had a meeting with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the fate of the 15-year-old alliance in Maharashtra. After the meeting Pawar announced that the alliance shall continue.

It is now expected that the ticklish task of finalizing the seat sharing formula would be taken up in right earnest. The Sonia-Pawar meeting had become imperative in view of the constant posturing by both the sides that they ‘would go alone’ if their conditionalities were not met.

Pawar’s nephew Ajit had announced from several public platforms that the NCP would go alone if its demand for half the 288 assembly seats was not accepted by the Congress. The NCP was emboldened by its performance in the Lok Sabha elections and enhanced its claim from 114 seats in the 2009 assembly polls to 144 this time. (The NCP got 4 Lok Sabha seats, and the Congress could muster just two. Together, they got a severe drubbing from the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance and their share dropped to just 6 seats out of the 48 from the state.)

The state assembly elections due later this year present an uphill task for the Congress-NCP alliance as it battles a three-term anti-incumbency and strong internal dissidence. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has barely survived after the Lok Sabha debacle. But his continuation in office is not attributed to any spectacular performance as chief minister or his ability to deliver. He has stayed put as the leadership realizes the futility of making an eleventh hour change of guard.

The Congress state leaders from Chavan downwards have squarely rejected the NCP claim of 50-50 seat sharing, but then it is also accepted that the current 114-174 formula in favour of the Congress would have to be tinkered with to give a higher representation to the NCP.

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