By Sanjay Jog
Mumbai: The Congress and its partner in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), would look at how to strengthen their coalition to return to power in the 2014 Assembly elections.
The decision was taken at the maiden coalition committee meeting last night, in the wake of NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s agreement on a coordination mechanism at both the Centre and in Maharashtra.
Both Congress and NCP insiders said they’d been forced to consider sticking to the alliance as the Shiv Sena-BJP rival is making an all-out effort to bring in the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to form an alliance or at least share seats in the 2014 elections.
The Congress was represented at yesterday’s talks by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, state party chief Manikrao Thakre and the central party’s state in-charge, Mohan Prakash. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, NCP state chief Madhukar Pichad and the Union minister for heavy industries, Praful Patel, represented the NCP.
Chavan told Business Standard: “The issue of further strengthening the Congress-NCP alliance was discussed. Besides, how the two parties can improve their combined tally by fighting in alliance during 2014 came up for discussion.”
Pichad said the meeting was cordial and both parties believed it was possible for the alliance to retain power. “Proper coordination between the Congress and the NCP at the government level will help reach out to the people effectively with the government’s pro-development programmes. We have decided to meet every month,” he said.
The Congress has a strength of 82 and the NCP has 62 in the 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. The NCP did better than the Congress in the elections early this year to civic and local self-government bodies.
The NCP’s move to assume power in some of these bodies with the Shiv Sena and the BJP had come under severe criticism from the Congress. The NCP had hit back at the Congress for openly supporting the Sena in the Thane civic body and in a couple of other polls.
At the meeting, Chavan said he was not ‘leaking’ any files to Opposition leaders who had launched a campaign against NCP ministers. This was in the wake of Chavan being targeted by the NCP for allegedly clearing files slowly and not consulting it on crucial government decisions.
A Congress leader present at the meeting said: “The chief minister clearly said he was heading a Congress-led coalition government in the state and could not afford to disturb it by leaking files of ministries held by NCP members. Chavan explained he’d been simply responding to the (state) Governor’s communications received by the government on a memorandum from Opposition leaders.”