While the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) held a review meeting on Monday in preparation for elections to 196 municipal councils in Maharashtra on December 8, a war of sorts between its Minister of State for Urban Development Bhaskar Jadhav and Congress Industries Minister Narayan Rane in the Konkan could queer the pitch for a possible alliance between the Congress and the NCP. Party workers attacked each other's offices and disrupted traffic on the Mumbai-Goa highway at Chiplun on Monday.
Union Agriculture Minister and NCP president Sharad Pawar met Ministers from his party and MPs to take stock of the situation before deciding on an alliance with the Congress for the elections, where 4,303 seats are at stake in various districts, including Pune, Raigad and Aurangabad. While Mr. Pawar did not speak to the media, NCP spokesperson Madan Bafna said the situation in each district was reviewed and opinions were sought on whether an alliance with the Congress would benefit the party. In many areas — in Satara and other areas in western Maharashtra where the Congress and NCP are competing with each other — people were not in favour of an alliance.
It was felt that in places where the NCP was strong it should contest the elections on its own steam. In the Konkan, where the Shiv Sena is strong, the party will have to take a call. NCP sources said local units of the party would assess the micro-level situations and then take a decision. The alliance, in any case, would not be a blanket State-wide one.
Another meeting has been called on November 10 to take a decision regarding an alliance for the Mumbai Corporation polls expected to be held next year. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had earlier expressed the view that an alliance would benefit the party, but it remains to be seen if a decision to that effect will be taken. The NCP is assessing its strengths and weaknesses in each region and is likely to ally with the Congress only when it feels a threat could be posed by the Saffron alliance. Meanwhile, a turf war between Mr. Rane and Mr. Jadhav led to party offices being attacked at Chiplun in Ratnagiri district, and NCP workers staging a ‘rasta roko' briefly blocked traffic on the Mumbai-Goa highway. Mr. Rane and Mr. Jadhav, two former Shiv Sainiks, are fighting for supremacy in the Konkan region, which the Sena has dominated for years. The NCP has made serious inroads there, much to the dismay of Mr. Rane, who, faced with resentment from his own party, is fighting to survive.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Jadhav said everyone had a right to expand their party, but it had to be within democratic means and should not involve belittling others. He said Mr. Rane had crossed all limits when he launched a personal attack on Mr. Pawar and other NCP leaders. His son Nilesh Rane, MP, too had hit out against Mr. Jadhav. Confirming the attack, Faisal Kaskar, an associate of Mr. Jadhav at Chiplun said the NCP office was wrecked, party flags were ripped off and even a statue of Shivaji was targeted.
The NCP lodged an FIR against Nilesh Rane and three Congress workers, Ratnagiri Superintendent of Police Pradip Raskar told The Hindu on the phone. In turn, the Congress was filing a complaint that the NCP workers had attacked their office. Mr. Raskar said the NCP had held a brief ‘rasta roko', demanding the arrest of Congress workers but the situation was under control. He said it would have to be ascertained whether Mr. Nilesh Rane was present. Mr. Jadhav said Mr. Rane's political career was on the downswing and he had no business to make allegations. “I am clean, my business interests are clean and there is no reason for his abuse,” he said. He asked what Mr. Rane, who called himself a Konkan leader, had done for Ratnagiri district. Mr. Nilesh Rane, MP from Sindhudurg, the neighbouring district, was also using threatening language, he alleged.