Maha alliances fail to break seat-sharing deadlock

Maha alliances fail to break seat-sharing deadlock

Plagued by seemingly irreconcilable differences, rival political combinations in Maharashtra today failed to break the deadlock over seat-sharing for the October 15 Assembly polls, nominations for which close just three days from now.

A day after their top state leaders met for the first and only time so far to discuss distribution of seats, there were frosty vibes between NCP and Congress, in power in Maharashtra for the past 15 years, with the latter ruling out any further talks.

Mahayuti, a conglomeration of six parties led by Shiv Sena and BJP that came into existence just before the May Lok Sabha elections, despite intermittent declarations of intent of staying united, continued to squabble over the number of seats each constituent will contest.

NCP's demands for rotational chief ministership for the party in the event of the ruling alliance coming to power yet again and half of the state's 288 Assembly seats apparently thwarted further discussions on seat-sharing.

Congress has offered NCP 124 seats, 10 more than it had contested in the 2009 Assembly polls.

Congress' campaign committee chief Narayan Rane said Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was in discussion with the party high command over NCP's demand for rotational chief ministership and a decision on the alliance would be taken this evening.

"High Command's views are being sought on the latest NCP demand and a decision will be communicated later today," he said when asked about the status of the Congress-NCP talks and added there would be no more meetings with the ally on seat-sharing.

However, there was no announcement on the issue till late evening. In an indication that the alliance could be in trouble, Chavan said though Congress was keen on continuing its ties with NCP "impossible conditions" were making things "difficult".
"Congress is keen on continuing the alliance with NCP to keep the communal forces at bay. But if impossible conditions are put, things become difficult. Had the talks started without pre-conditions, we would have sorted out all issues by now," Chavan told reporters in his hometown Karad.

Though the NCP core committee, including party chief Sharad Pawar, met for long hours discussing the seat-sharing imbroglio, the leaders remained tight-lipped about their plans.

"I have nothing to say on this," said senior leader and a close Pawar aide Praful Patel after the meeting.

NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said, "We kept waiting for an invitation for talks but none came. We are ready to contest all seats if our alliance falls apart."

The Mahayuti too faced tense moments when three of its smaller constituents threatened to quit over 'paltry' allocation of seats. Shiv Sena had last night offered smaller allies seven seats, keeping for itself 151 and sparing 130 for BJP.

However, hours after accusing BJP and Sena of "backstabbing" them, the leaders gave indications of staying on in the alliance following an assurance from Uddhav Thackeray that they will be given "respectable" number of seats.

"Our meeting with Uddhavji was very successful. We have proposed to him a formula that can make every party happy. We have asked him to keep 150 seats for Shiv Sena, leaving 120 for BJP and we will be satisfied with 18 seats.

"We are going to meet BJP leaders now and hope this logjam will be sorted out today," Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana leader and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty told reporters after his meeting with Thackeray.

Vinayak Mete of Shiv Sangram, who was also present during the meeting, said junior partners in the alliance will get more than 7 seats.

"We met Uddhavji and other leaders of the Sena. We have reworked a new formula which we will now discuss with BJP leaders today. Under the new formula smaller parties will be getting more than 7 seats to contest," Mete said.

The saffron combine has four junior partners in 'Mahayuti', cobbled together ahead of Lok Sabha elections, including Raju Shetty's Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), Mahadev Jankar's Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP), Vinayak Mete's Shiv Sangram and Ramdas Athavale's Republican Party of India (RPI).

RPI's Arjun Dangle, who also met BJP and Sena leaders and sought 18 seats for lesser allies, said he was told they would think about it.

As the partners threatened to walk out of the alliance, state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said," Our party has decided to contest the polls with all our alliance partners.

"They joined us before Lok Sabha polls reposing trust in us. They have to stay with us, we want them to stay with us and we are trying to see to it that they stay with us," he said.

The leaders of Mahayuti met at a suburban hotel to discuss various proposals put forth by the allies. Under one of the proposals, BJP's seats would come down to 127 and for smaller allies 10, while leaving Shiv Sena's quota of 151, declared as "final" by Uddhav, untouched.

"The meeting BJP and alliance partners went off well today. Mahayuti is strong and will remain strong," Fadnavis said after the meeting, adding the differences will be sorted out soon.

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