India Today


As the Uddhav Sena gets a lion’s share in the MVA seat- sharing deal, discontent brews within Congress ranks over the leadership conceding three key seats

- By Dhaval S. Kulkarni

At a time when Opposition unity and amicable seat- sharing should come as welcome news, any heartburn it causes has to remain suppressed in pursuit of the greater common good. So it is with the Maharashtr­a Congress, where several have been left unhappy with the party’s decision to concede the Sangli and Mumbai South Central seats to the Maha Vikas Aghadi ( MVA) partner Shiv Sena ( Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Bhiwandi to the Nationalis­t Congress Party ( Sharadchan­dra Pawar). The MVA sealed its seat- sharing deal for the Lok Sabha election on April 9, with the Sena ( UBT) bagging 21 seats, the Congress 17 and the NCP ( SP) 10.

Sena ( UBT), in fact, had already announced the candidatur­e of wrestler Chandrahar Patil from Sangli and former Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai from Mumbai South Central. This, even as Vishal Patil, grandson of former chief minister Vasantdada Patil, was the Congress probable from Sangli, and Mumbai Congress president and former minister Varsha Gaikwad was in contention from South Central. Meanwhile, the NCP ( SP) has decided to field Suresh ‘ Balyamama’ Mhatre from Bhiwandi, ignoring the claims of the Congress, which had won the seat in 2009. All three seats have a strong Congress presence, and its leaders are upset that the Sena unilateral­ly declared its nominees before the seat- sharing deal was inked.

A senior Congressma­n confided to india today that the party’s state leadership could not bring gravitas, planning and diplomacy to the table while negotiatin­g with its allies. “While we can still prevent a rebellion on these seats by reaching out to the slighted leaders,” he said, “there is a slim chance the MVA will win these constituen­cies.” Even as state Congress chief Nana Patole claims the party has taken a step back to fulfil the larger goal of defeating the BJP, its leaders fear that, depending on the Lok Sabha results, the Sena ( UBT) and NCP ( SP) could ditch them in the assembly election later this year.

Former MP Sanjay Nirupam, who was expelled from the Congress for “anti- party activities”, described the MVA seat- sharing as a “disaster” as the three allies were trying to wrest the maximum number of seats from each other. A Sena ( UBT) leader admitted that the party may have overplayed its hand by insisting on Sangli, where the BJP has fielded two- time MP Sanjaykaka Patil.

Journalist and political analyst Abhay Deshpande says the rumblings within the MVA are expected as it was a post- poll alliance with no basis for seat- sharing. “In an alliance, expediency often takes precedence over political equations,” he says. “The Uddhav Sena and NCP ( SP) are trying to exploit the Congress’s need to keep I. N. D. I. A. together in Maharashtr­a.” Will this “togetherne­ss” come at a cost?

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 ?? ?? WAIT AND WATCH ( L- R) Maharashtr­a Congress chief Nana Patole with MVA partners Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, Apr. 9
WAIT AND WATCH ( L- R) Maharashtr­a Congress chief Nana Patole with MVA partners Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, Apr. 9

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