Sharad Pawar’s detractors in Congress holding up Maharashtra political realignment: Sources

MUMBAI: A section of the old guard in the Maharashtra unit of the Congress party that has long been suspicious of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is said to be working behind the scenes to stymie the alliance of the two outfits with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, sources here said.

Sharad Pawar’s detractors in Congress holding up Maharashtra political realignment: Sources

Sharad Pawar. PTI file photo

uttara@tribuneindia.com

Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service
Mumbai, November 19

A section of the old guard in the Maharashtra unit of the Congress party that has long been suspicious of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is said to be working behind the scenes to stymie
the alliance of the two outfits with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, sources here said.

Pawar’s opponents in the Congress have been working on senior party leaders like KC Venugopal and Mallikarjun Kharge ever since the Shiv Sena showed signs of breaking up with the BJP shortly after the
Maharashtra assembly elections in Maharashtra.

 “There are leaders in the Congress party who have been traditionally opposed to Pawar. These
leaders came into their own shortly after the Maratha strongman broke away to form the NCP 20 years ago,” says a Mumbai-based Congress leader, who keeps tabs on his party colleagues in western Maharashtra.

The anti-Pawar lobby in the Congress is worried that they would be sidelined if the Maratha chieftain puts together a government headed by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray with the non-BJP parties becoming part of the coalition. This group has warned the Congress party leadership that it would lose its support among the minorities in other parts of the country if it aligns with a communal outfit like the Shiv
Sena.

Congress party leaders who are keen on joining the government led by the Shiv Sena are doing their own lobbying with the central leadership of the party. This group has found support from former Congress MLA from Sillod, Abdul Sattar, who quit the party and won from the same seat as a Shiv Sena candidate. Sources say, Sattar had spoken to the Congress party’s intermediaries and vouched for the support of the Shiv Sena among the Muslims of Maharashtra.
Sources said the example of Sattar played a major role in convincing senior Congress party leaders about tying up with the Shiv Sena.
With the Congress high command veering towards becoming part of an alliance with the Shiv Sena, the loyalists are pushing for a bigger share of the power pie. This group is pushing for former Maharashtra
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, an old rival of Pawar, to be made Speaker of the state assembly. The Speaker’s role is seen as crucial should cracks develop between the three partners down the line,
according to sources here.

Veteran Congress leaders here are also demanding 13-14 cabinet berths in the new government, including crucial portfolios and the post of Deputy Chief Minister as a pre-condition for joining the government, according to sources here.

Pawar is looking to finalise the power-sharing arrangement with the Congress before approaching the Shiv Sena for its final stamp of approval, say NCP sources.

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