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Congress and NCP work out seat-sharing for 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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Two months after the parties announced they would be rekindling their alliance, sources say the formula has been worked out and all details sorted.

New Delhi: Two months after the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party confirmed that they would contest next year’s Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections in alliance, the parties have worked out the nitty-gritty of their arrangement.

Sources in both parties confirmed to ThePrint that the seat-sharing pact has been sealed, and while the announcement may not be made immediately, party workers would be informed about the decision in the coming week.

The alliance had been confirmed in February after a meeting between Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan and NCP state president Sunil Tatkare. The two parties had ruled Maharashtra in alliance for 15 consecutive years before going their separate ways ahead of the 2014 assembly polls, where both were defeated.

NCP Rajya Sabha MP Majid Memon told ThePrint: “In the past few weeks, we have tried to settle our minor differences, and I am glad we have got a positive response from the top leadership of the Congress.

“In Maharashtra we have agreed to contest together in the Lok Sabha and even assembly elections. In other states, the NCP won’t act in a manner detrimental to the opposition effort to defeat the BJP.”

The formula

Memon refused to divulge any details about the seat sharing agreement, saying it was still too early to discuss this.

But ThePrint has learnt that the Congress will contest 26 of Maharashtra’s 48 seats and the NCP the other 22.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana MP Raju Shetti, who recently left the NDA fold to ally with the Congress, will be accommodated within the Congress quota, sources say.

Of the six seats in Mumbai, the NCP will contest Mumbai North-East, currently represented by Kirit Somaiya of the BJP. The NCP had fought this seat in 2014 as well, representing the alliance.

Meanwhile, for Maharashtra’s 288 assembly seats, which go to the polls later in 2019, the Congress has already submitted a list that NCP can contest, which the latter is working on finalising.

Why the reunion

In addition to viewing the BJP as a common enemy, the Congress and the NCP seem to have decided to rekindle their old alliance after the results in the Gujarat assembly polls, where the Congress lost in 12 seats due to a division of votes with the likes of the NCP and the BSP. Eventually the BJP’s margin of victory was 19 seats, indicating just how close things could’ve been had there been no division of votes.

After the parties had agreed to the alliance in principle, the process got accelerated when Congress president Rahul Gandhi met Pawar in New Delhi on 14 March and offered him the position of convenor of a UPA-3.

Pawar, now 77, realises this is probably his last chance to make a meaningful contribution to national politics after having come close to the prime ministership in the past. Hence, he has been one of the galvanising points for opposition parties, like West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whom he met on 27 March in Delhi. Banerjee told Pawar that she was keen on pre-poll alliances being in place in two of the biggest states in the country, UP and Maharashtra.

“Pawar ji has been recognised by all the anti-BJP parties as someone who has the ability to bring everyone together and defeat the BJP. He also shares a very good relationship with the top Congress leadership,” Memon pointed out.

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  1. One consideration for Shri Sharad Pawar would also be to plan for succession in the NCP, better organised if the party is in power, rather than being in the wilderness. Ms Supriya Sule could work in Delhi, Shri Ajit Pawar in the state. With the Congress and the NCP contesting jointly, the Shiv Sena will have to reconsider its stated intention of going it alone. The two saffron parties would be routed if they contest separately.

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