Meena Menon

Vilasrao pitching for Congress going it alone

NCP is no mood to give up Osmanabad

MUMBAI: While seat sharing between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra has been decided, there is a tussle over Osmanabad, which the Congress wants for the former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. The former Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, is also keen on the Osmanabad seat, party sources said.

The Latur constituency, where Mr. Patil lost in 2004, is now reserved for the Scheduled Castes. But the Congress move to field Mr. Patil in Osmanabad has not gone down well with Mr. Deshmukh. He also made a strong pitch for the party going it alone in the State. Mr. Deshmukh who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently, said if the Congress stood on its own, it would do better than in 2004 when it won just 13 of the 27 seats it contested.

The NCP held a meeting on Friday night to discuss the Congress delay in announcing the alliance. Referring to Osmanabad, NCP Minister Nawab Malik said the seat was cleared in the first round of talks itself. It was clearly an NCP seat and there was no dispute over that. In 2004, the Shiv Sena won the seat narrowly, defeating the NCP. If there was any internal difference in the Congress, the party should resolve it and make a quick decision, said Mr. Malik.

The NCP clearly is not in a mood to give up Osmanabad. The party, which is not keen on seeing Mr. Deshmukh move to the Centre, is pitching for the candidature of Padamsingh Patil in the constituency.

Even at the Congress executive committee meeting held in Aurangabad on March 7 the differences between the two parties came into the open, with Mr. Deshmukh and Union Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy Vilas Muttemwar asking the NCP to clarify its stand on the issue of Prime Minister. Also later, at the public meeting, Mr. Deshmukh and others called for the Congress to contest the elections on its own.

Mr. Deshmukh said the rank and file were keen on the party going it alone. After Mr. Deshmukh met Ms. Gandhi, another round of meetings was held at the State level with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

On Friday, while the NCP made a statement that sharing of seats between the party and the Congress was fixed at 22-26, it was not confirmed by PCC president Manikrao Thakre.

According to party sources, the Congress offered the Aurangabad seat to Mr. Deshmukh, who is not very keen on it. It is now held by the Sena.

The Congress is also unhappy with its senior leaders who are seeking to contest “safe seats.”

More In: Today's Paper