NEW DELHI: The Congress and the NCP are trying to sink their differences for a 2019 alliance in Maharashtra where both the parties are under compulsion to join hands against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.
After UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, Maharashtra is the second largest state that sends 48 members to the Lower House of Parliament.
Sources in both parties confirmed that seat-sharing talks had started for 2019, but noted that the 24:24 formula suggested by the regional party could prove to be a sticking point. The NCP is reportedly citing the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly poll results to back its claim, something the Congress managers are finding hard to accept.
In the 2014 general elections, both the Congress and the NCP had suffered losses. While the Congress bagged just two seats, the NCP got five against 21 of the BJP and 18 of the Shiv Sena.
After failing to work out a seat-sharing deal, the Congress-NCP combine, which had been in power in the state, for 15 years, parted ways ahead of the Assembly polls that followed the same year. Though both took a beating, the Congress and the NCP ended up being neck-and-neck with 42 and 41 seats respectively in the 288-member House.
“The Congress always remained a bigger player than the NCP in the state. It still has presence across the state. It should get more seats,” a Congress veteran said. “Talks are on but let us see how the Congress responds,” said a senior NCP leader.
Of late, expectations of pre-poll alliance had soared when the Congress and the NCP supported each other for the Bhandara-Gondia and Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls. But for 2019, the stakes are high for both the parties and neither one wants to budge. Congress sources said party chief Rahul Gandhi had met NCP boss Sharad Pawar after the Maratha leader attended a dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi in a bid to pacify the veteran politician, who may be averse to dealing with a much younger counterpart.
The move came amidst reports that Pawar was harbouring ambitions of anchoring a united Opposition ahead of the 2019 polls, a role that many Congress managers think should naturally come to the Grand
Rahul has also asked the Maharasthra and Mumbai units to strengthen the party at the booth level to counter the BJP in the western state.
Sources in the two parties said they had been keeping a watch on Shiv Sena—which has been sulking with ally BJP and keeps targeting the party—but are wary of striking a deal with the party. “Sena may fight with the BJP, but the two will ultimately come together. The best case for Congress- NCP is to resolve issues between us and work together,” said a senior AICC functionary.