M A I N   N E W S

Cong to head govt in Maharashtra
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27
After endless rounds of negotiations and tough posturing, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) finally agreed upon a power-sharing formula for Maharashtra tonight.

Although it won more seats and had staked its claim for the chief minister’s post, the NCP eventually buckled in and conceded the top job to the Congress as insisted by it. The NCP leaders were also unable to persuade the Congress to a second deputy chief minister for their party. They have now settled for the old formula under which the NCP will have one deputy chief minister.

Given the NCP’s altered strength in the new assembly, the Congress will part with three more ministerial berths and two extra portfolios from its quota. The NCP endorsed this offer tonight.

Although the legislators of the two parties will formally elect their respective leaders on Friday, indications are that incumbent chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde is the preferred choice of the NCP for the top slot. NCP leader Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil may also retain his old job as Mr. Shinde’s deputy. 

Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee had offered extra ministerial berths and portfolios to the NCP on Sunday itself. The NCP, however, was holding out as it insisted that two of its nominees be accommodated as deputy chief ministers to compensate for conceding the chief ministership to the Congress.

It had also asked for weighty portfolios like urban development, cooperatives, industry and revenue. The Congress, however, shot down this counter -proposal and, at one stage, even said it would accept the NCP offer of lending outside support to its new government.

The formal announcement of their agreement was announced jointly by Congress leaders Margaret Alva and Ahmed Patel and NCP interlocutor Praful Patel late tonight at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence.” We have agreed to continue with the 1999 formula except that the NCP will have three more ministers and two extra portfolios,” Mrs. Alva told presspersons, adding that the Congress candidate will be the chief minister while the NCP will have one deputy CM.

Expressing satisfaction with this arrangement, Mr Praful Patel admitted there had been a delay in resolving this issue but denied any disagreement between the two allies. “We fought the election as pre-poll allies, we ran a joint government and are now working together at the Centre... the fundamental issue is that we have to work together,” he said. Mr. Ahmed Patel voiced similar sentiments, stating that problems in a coalitions are inevitable.

Tonight’s agreement topped a day of hectic political activity in both camps. NCP leaders held three marathon sessions with their senior Maharashtra legislators today, where they convinced the state unit to accept this proposal. NCP leader Praful Patel then drove down to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence to convey his party’s decision. Ms Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also spoke to Mr. Sharad Pawar on the telephone to seal the deal. Subsequently, Mrs. Alva and Mr. Ahmed Patel came to Mr Pawar’s residence where the joint announcement was made.

Having held out for so long, NCP leaders put up a brave face on succumbing to Congress pressure. Taking the high moral ground, they said they were conceding the top post to its ally in the larger interest of keeping the coalition intact. They denied asking for a second deputy chief minister, saying this proposal had actually come from the Congress which subsequently backtracked. “It is not in our interest to have two power centres in the party,” was one explanation.

Although denied by both sides, there was speculation that the NCP could be compensated at the Centre at a later stage wherein Mr. Praful Patel could be given a Cabinet rank while NCP leader Tariq Anwar could be accommodated as minister of state.Back

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |