Cong MPS from Maharashtra want party to fight all seats on its own



New Delhi: Apparently wary of the poll gameplan of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Congress MPs from Maharashtra could tell party vice president Rahul Gandhi at their meeting on Monday that it should prepare to fight all the seats on its own in the next Lok Sabha elections.

"Instead of fully relying on the NCP, the Congress should be ready to contest all the seats", party MP Rajani Patil told a news agency, adding this was necessary to avoid any unexpected move by Pawar's party that could derail Congress's plans.

Patil recalled assertions by the state NCP that despite an alliance with the Congress, it will make preparations for contesting all the 288 Assembly seats as a "safety measure." It is also saying it wants a larger number of seats.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress had secured 17 and NCP 8 in the state having 48 seats. In the Assembly polls later, Congress had secured 82 seats while the NCP 62 in the 288-member House.

The state NCP has already started laying claim on Pune Lok Sabha seat currently represented by Suresh Kalmadi of the Congress, who has been suspended from the party in the wake of alleged irregularities in the organisation of Commonwealth Games.

Congress and NCP are ruling Maharashtra in an alliance since 1999 just a few months after Pawar parted ways with the Congress on the issue of foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi. The two parties are sharing power at the Centre since May 2004 when Sonia led UPA to power ousting the BJP-led NDA.

State leaders say that Rahul will be told that Congress could ill afford to lower its guard at a time when Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has put the NCP on the backfoot.

At the same time, a section of party MPs feel that if the Congress and NCP alliance continues it could help the party at a time when there have been efforts in the opposition camp to have a broader alliance involving the Shiv Sena-BJP as also MNS.

Assembly elections in Maharashtra are due in the second half of next year and the talk in political circles is that the alliance could continue in the state polls only if the UPA retains power at the Centre after the next Lok Sabha elections due in May next year.

PTI