With a day left for the last day of withdrawal of nomination papers for the October 13 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Congress-NCP leadership today intensified its attempts to get rebels out of the poll fray.
Union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who is the campaign committee chairman of the state Congress told reporters here that the two ruling coalition partners met here this morning to discuss the rebels pitted against the official candidates of the two parties.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, state Congress president Manikrao Thakre, Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh and Shinde himself represented the Congress side.
While Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal represented the NCP side.
Mr. Shinde said, “We exchanged a list of Congress and NCP rebels and decided to intensify efforts to pacify them and ensure they withdraw from race.”
Mr. Shinde said he and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar began the joint campaign of Congress-NCP in Solapur on Sunday. “Due to Pawar’s intervention, many rebels in the Solapur district have withdrawn”, he said.
He said there are three rebels from Congress and about two to three from NCP still in the race.
“We are confident that the Congress rebels will withdraw,” Mr. Shinde said.
Mr. Thakre said Congress would take strict action against those who do not withdraw. “Even if they win, they will not be made associate members,” he said.
He said sitting MLA from Amravati and Minister Sunil Deshmukh who is fighting against Rajendra Shekhawat, son of President Pratibha Patil, is being persuaded to withdraw.
“Deshmukh is a loyal party worker. He has been given ticket twice and also made a minister on two occasions,” he said.
Mr. Shinde said the number of rebels in fray this time was high because of the delay in announcing the pre-election pact by the Congress and NCP.