Blames Congress for Gujarat defeat

Union Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel on Friday slammed the Congress for the “way it behaved” with its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, in Gujarat. He said the intention of his party allying with the Congress was to keep the secular vote intact. Yet Narendra Modi won for the third time in a row and reasons for “our defeat must be examined.”

Speaking at the inauguration of the NCP’s renovated office at Nariman Point here, Mr. Patel lauded Mr. Modi, saying he was re-elected for the third term because he worked hard to earn the confidence of people.

Mr. Patel said the NCP was falling short somewhere and urged party workers not to rest until it reached the number one position in the Maharashtra Assembly elections and 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In Gujarat, the NCP had tied up with the Congress to keep the secular vote intact in nine seats, but the Congress did not behave responsibly. At the last minute, that party fielded candidates in those seats and the NCP lost out, winning only two, he said.

Mr. Patel envisaged a bigger role in the country for NCP president and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. The NCP had its own “Janta Raja [a benevolent king, a term usually used for Shivaji Maharaj] but it couldn’t call itself a number one party still.” Each State had its own leader like Modi or Mamata [Banerjee] and it was time to propel Mr. Pawar into a big position in 2014.

He said that like the renovated office, the party also needed to be refurbished and Mr. Pawar was one of the handful leaders to whom people looked up to in New Delhi. Mr. Pawar was responsible for a huge jump in grains exports and loan waiver for farmers. Though the party topped in the local bodies elections in Maharashtra, it needed to be ahead in the Assembly and general elections.

NCP State president Madhukar Pichad, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and State Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal also spoke of working to get their party the number one status in the State.

NCP MP Tariq Anwar referred to Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi’s offer to make Mr. Pawar the Prime Minister if the NCP joined the NDA. He said: “when rivals praise you, there is something in it and it should be taken seriously.”

For his part, Mr. Pawar dwelt at length on the drought in Maharashtra and on the food security Bill, apart from women’s safety.

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