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After Mamata, Pawar dictates terms to Congress

Monday January 09, 2012 05:53:19 PM, IANS

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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 polls.

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 the NCP.

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.








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