M A I N   N E W S

Cong offers 3 ministerial berths to NCP
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 24
While talks between the two claimants for the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s post remained deadlocked today, the Congress tossed the ball back into the NCP court when it publicly offered to part with more ministerial berths and portfolios in return for the top job.

The NCP responded saying it needed time to consult its members to discuss this offer with their legislators.

Though their initial reaction was said to be “not very enthusiastic”, indications were that following a meeting of senior NCP leaders the party was likely to accept the offer. The breakthrough was expected tomorrow.

Stating clearly “we cannot go beyond this,” Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister and chief Congress negotiator, today told presspersons that “it is now for the NCP to respond to this proposal.” He said the Congress was willing to give three additional ministerial berths and two more portfolios from its quota. This, he said, would be in addition to the existing arrangement.

NCP interlocutor Praful Patel responded cautiously to the Congress’s compromise formula. Clearly playing for more time, Mr Patel said he would not be able to respond immediately to the Congress offer, first since they began talks, as he had to consult their legislators. “But their initial response has not been very enthusiastic,” he said, adding that they would need a day or two to give their reply.

At the same time, Mr Patel also stated that there had been no reversal on the NCP’s original stand that the party was the rightful claimant for the Chief Minister’s post by virtue of having won more seats.

Although the NCP and the Congress were to resume their discussions on the power-sharing formula today, there was no formal contact between the two parties. The Congress, which had been shying from divulging any details of the discussions, today went public with its compromise formula, clearly stating that it was not willing to part with the Chief Minister’s post.

While the NCP maintained this proposal was made only today, Congress sources said it was discussed at yesterday’s marathon meeting held at Mr Mukherjee’s residence and attended by Mr Patel. The latter had made a counter-offer and sought two deputy chief ministers for the NCP. This was not acceptable to the Congress.

As per the existing power-sharing arrangement between the two parties, the Congress has the Chief Minister’s post, but key portfolios like home, power and finance are with the NCP.

It is learnt that the NCP is bargaining for revenue, power and housing portfolios, at present with the Congress, but the latter is disinclined to part with these ministries. In fact, Maharashtra Congress leaders were learnt to have been upset over this offer on the ground that all key portfolios would then be bagged by the NCP.

Mr Pawar maintained that he was not involved in the ongoing parleys, as he had deputed Mr Patel to take a final decision. He denied the NCP had sought two posts of deputy chief ministers and contended that the Congress had not responded to their proposal.


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