New Delhi: After Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee's angry outbursts, more
headaches from allies seem to be in store for the Congress with
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's ultimatum to
finalise by Tuesday seat-sharing for the upcoming Mumbai civic
Following Pawar's ultimatum, given Sunday, Maharashtra Chief
Minister Prithviraj Chavan is in Delhi to discuss the issue with
senior Congress party leaders.
He met senior party leader and Defence Minister A.K. Antony, a
former state in charge, Monday, and was also expected to meet
Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Terming Pawar's statement as mere "political posturing to get a
good deal ahead of the municipal corporation poll", political
observers said "the Congress must assert itself".
"The Congress should assert itself. Pawar's threat is good for the
Congress as it would galvanise the grand old party into taking
action on the alliance," political analyst N. Bhaskara Rao told
IANS, adding: "A seat sharing arrangement will help both the
parties fight the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which
controls the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation at present."
"Pawar is better than Mamata, who is very unpredictable," said Rao.
Ashok Wankhede, an expert in Maharashtra politics, too said that
"an assertive Congress would be in a better position to strike a
good deal with the NCP".
"The Congress needs to get assertive to gain the game as it stands
to benefit from an alliance," Wankhede told IANS.
As both sides gear up for some hard bargaining, the NCP said it is
"pressing" for an alliance with Congress in order to "defeat the
Shiv Sena-BJP combine".
"We want the Congress-NCP alliance to be finalised soon so we can
defeat the Shiv Sena-BJP combine," NCP general secretary D.P.
Tripathi told IANS.
Expressing hope that "everything will be fine", Congress MP from
Nagpur Vilas Muttemwar said "the issue would be resolved soon".
Congress sources, however, said there are two lines being pursued
in the party on having an alliance with NCP.
While Mumbai MP Gurudas Kamat wants the party to "go alone", Chief
Minister Prithviraj Chavan prefers an alliance with the NCP.
What is holding the tie-up is actually a game of numbers.
While the NCP is demanding 65 seats out of the total 232 seats
(five members are nominated) in the BMC polls, the Congress is not
willing to offer more than 50-odd seats.
In the 2007 polls, the Congress won 83 seats against just 19 for
In comparison, the Shiv Sena won 85 seats and the BJP got 29.
Tripathi said the Shiv Sena-BJP combine won the polls in 2007
because the "Congress and the NCP could not cobble up a
seat-sharing pact till the eleventh hour".
"That mistake should not be repeated this time," he added.
Political experts said the NCP is bullish on the municipal
corporation polls after its success in the recent municipal
council elections across the state.
As many as 10 municipal corporations are going to polls Feb 16.
Out of these, Mumbai and Thane are considered to be prestigious
ones, owing to the huge funds under their control.
The money factor, besides the political equations, has made the
contest high profile.
In the past one month, Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief
Minister Mamata Banerjee has blocked the government's move to
allow 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail, and
followed it up with strong opposition to the Lokpal bill in the
Rajya Sabha. Her party also sharply criticised the government over
the petrol price hike and inflation.