M A I N   N E W S

Cong virtually rejects NCP claim
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 18
The Congress tonight virtually rejected NCP’s claim on Maharashtra chief ministership, asserting that it had more numbers but said that the issue would be resolved through discussions.

AICC General Secretary Margaret Alva told the media after an hourlong meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi that the Congress and its allies had got 74 MLAs against 72 of the NCP and its friendly parties.

Mr Alva suggested that the Congress should head the new government as the people had given a verdict in favour of the incumbent government.

The game of nerves continued today between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on the matter of the Maharashtra chief ministership with both sides locked in intense parleys to resolve the issue.

The two sides are taking a hard stand on the issue with the NCP demanding strict adherence to the 1999 formula, which says that the party having the largest number of MLAs would have the post of Chief Minister and the Congress saying that it had the right on the post since allies like the CPM were given seats from its quota of seats.

Ms Alva told the media that the people of the state had a given a mandate to the good work of the coalition government and allies had been given seats from the Congress quota.

Moreover, the Congress is saying that the denial of chief ministership to Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde would send the wrong signal to the Dalit community and it would not be politically prudent to deny him the chair as the elections had been won under his leadership.

Apart from Ms Alva, AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh and senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad were present at the meeting with Ms Gandhi.

Those from Maharashtra who participated in the discussion were Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, state unit chief Prabha Rau and Mumbai Region Congress Commitee President Gurdas Kamat.

The issue of Maharashtra chief ministership in the backdrop of the NCP’s threat not to join the government if it was denied the top post was discussed.

Political secretary to the Congress President Ahmad Patel was also present in the talks.

Earlier, the leaders held a meeting at Mr Mukherjee’s residence and then drove down to 10 Janpath to meet Ms Gandhi.

The Congress sidestepped questions on the issue of the Chief Ministership in the wake of a tussle with its ally NCP for the top post, saying the talks “are on and we will let you know the outcome.”

“We believe in dialogue...Talks are on between leaders of the two parties (to sort out the Chief Ministership issue)... we will let you know the outcome,” party spokesperson Girja Vyas told reporters in reply to questions.

To a query as to how long would it take to resolve the matter, Vyas said that last time (1999), it had taken 10 days and “this time we should wait for three-four days.”

Asked about the threat given by Mr Pawar that his party would provide outside support to the Congress if it failed to concede to its demand for chief ministership, Vyas said “Who said what and in what context I do not know. We only know that talks are on.”

She avoided talking about the 1999 formula under which the Congress was given chief ministership as it had emerged as the single largest party saying, “let the dialogue be completed.”

“I do not want to go into figures which are before you,” she remarked when reminded that this time the NCP had got more seats than the Congress.

Those engaged in the talks were “mature” and they were taking care of all aspects of the issue, she said when asked whether there was pressure within the Congress to concede chief ministership to the NCP.

While the newly elected MLAs in their respective meetings in Mumbai have authorised their respective presidents namely Ms Gandhi and Mr Pawar, to take the “appropiate” decision, the scene has now shifted to the national Capital, where senior leaders of both parties are engaged in serious discussions to weigh the pros and cons of the issue.

A senior NCP leader told TNS that public statements from both sides were part of the process of hard bargaining which is going on.

A compromise is possible in the spirit of “give and take”, he said, adding that the NCP MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh are going to be inducted in the Gegong Apang cabinet.

If the NCP finally relents on its demand of having its own Chief Minister, then heavy portfolios would be the chips of bargain, sources pointed out.

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