Mumbai, Jan 31 :
The uneasy relations between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — both allies in Maharashtra and at the centre — were highlighted again with the latter issuing an ultimatum on the seat-sharing issue here Friday.
The ultimatum came amidst reports that NCP president Sharad Pawar held a “secret” meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial candidate in New Delhi Jan 17.
However, Pawar himself dismissed the reports outright as “mischievous and baseless” and his senior party leader Praful Patel endorsed the stand.
Patel, however, issued a dark warning over the delayed seat-sharing talks, saying “all options are open” to the party.
“Elections are round the corner and we need clarity on these issues. This (delay) is not a good sign. All options are open,” Patel told media persons in Mumbai, while denying the alleged Pawar-Modi meeting.
Pawar clarified a report in a section of the Marathi media that he meets chief ministers (CMs) during state visits or at chief ministers’ conferences in New Delhi called by the centre.
“Barring these occasions, I never met Modi in the past one year,” Pawar said in a tweet, while a party spokesman said the NCP chief was not in the national capital Jan. 17.
The issue became complicated with the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) saying the NCP would not be welcome in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
The party is a constituent of Maharashtra’s saffron “Grand Alliance” comprising the BJP, the Shiv Sena, the Republican Party of India-Athawale and the SSS.
Patel reiterated the NCP was very much in alliance with the Congress and it would continue like in the past 10 years.
On an earlier occasion, Pawar categorically refuted reports that he was a contender for the prime minister’s post.
Pawar broke away from the Congress in 1999, protesting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, and launched the NCP.
The Congress and the NCP share 26 and 22 seats, respectively, in Maharashtra’s 48 Lok Sabha seats. Barring minor adjustments on a few seats, the same formula is expected to continue for the 2014 general elections.
Despite the blow hot-blow cold relationship, the Congress and the NCP are part of the United Progressive Alliance at the centre over the 10 years and in the Democratic Front in the state for the past 14 years.