2 min read.Updated: 18 Aug 2016, 11:40 AM ISTAnuja
Sharad Pawar seeks to remain politically relevant as he plans alliances in poll-bound states of Gujarat, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and also for Maharashtra civic polls
New Delhi: In a bid to remain politically relevant, Sharad Pawar, chief of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has asked party leaders, specially state unit chiefs to initiate alliances with ‘like-minded parties’ in their respective states. The move is significant because the party wants to initiate alliances, particularly with the Congress party, in poll-bound states of Gujarat, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and even the upcoming civic polls in Maharashtra later this year.
Senior leaders of the Congress party, however, said it is “too early" to commit to an alliance with the NCP and that in all these states the party wants to strengthen its own base and is most likely to contest polls alone.
Until 2014, Pawar led NCP was one of the oldest allies of the Congress party not just in Maharashtra but also in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
“We had a working committee meeting of the party in which Sharad Pawar gave a clear message to all state unit leaders that we should actively start talks at state level with the Congress and other like-minded parties. We know that our strength is not as it used to be before and we need to form a front where in there is a united opposition and take ahead such coalitions for polls too," a senior party leader from NCP, also a state unit chief said requesting anonymity.
The working committee of NCP held a meeting last week in the national capital last week where senior leaders of the party raised concerns about its electoral prospects. Pawar and other top leaders stressed that the party needs to reach out to all non-BJP, non-Shiv Sena parties to form a joint opposition front to take one state governments and to eventually aim at turning them into electoral alliances.
The state chiefs will now engage with their counterparts of other political parties, specially Congress, and start talks about forming a coalition.
The dipping electoral fortunes of the regional giant can be understood from the fact that in Maharashtra, which is its key bastion, the party won 62 out of 113 seats it contested in 2009 elections in alliance with Congress but its performance worsened to just 41 out of 278 seats it contested alone in 2014 polls.
The NCP has been one of the longest allies of the Congress. The alliance however ended on a bitter note in the run up to the Maharashtra elections of 2014 when the NCP broke the 15-year-old alliance with Congress and decided to contest assembly polls on its own. The immediate reason then was that the Congress announced its first list of candidates in the states and both parties could not reach a seat sharing arrangement.
“We have been in an alliance with them in the past but no such proposal has come to us till now. Currently in all these poll bound states, Congress is looking to strengthen its own position and any alliance will be done after carefully considering the political situation. Even if go for alliances, we will go for more viable options and the NCP does not have a stronghold in any of these states," a senior Congress leader from Gujarat said requesting anonymity.
Terms of legislative assemblies—Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat—end in May, March and January (all in 2017) respectively. Congress party is out of power in all three states but is looking at wresting power particularly in Goa and Gujarat, where arch-rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power.