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Congress Raj over in Maharashtra

NCP chief Sharad Pawar is trying to give financial backing to MNS.

Kiran Tare  Mumbai | 28th Dec 2013

In the 2009 general elections, all 12 MNS candidates had secured more than one lakh votes each, leading to the defeat of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in 11 out of the 12 constituencies. REUTERS

ationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar is trying to give the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) financial strength so that the party could make a dent in the Shiv Sena's voters further. Pawar has urged a few corporate houses to divert a part of their funding to the NCP to MNS as a "friendly gesture", a senior NCP leader said. The move is an indication of the fact that the Raj Thackeray-led MNS is moving away from the Congress and getting closer to the NCP.

According to an NCP leader, Pawar is keen on repeating 2009 by pitting the MNS against Shiv Sena in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2009 elections, all 12 MNS candidates had secured more than one lakh votes each, leading to the defeat of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in 11 out of these 12 constituencies. Pawar believes that empowering the MNS is one way to hold on to NCP's losing ground. Most political surveys have predicted that NCP will not be able to win more than four out of Maharashtra's 48 seats.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked fellow Congressmen to be prepared for a hung Parliament. He believes that all three combinations — UPA, NDA and the "Third Front" — would get almost the equal number of seats. On the other hand, the NCP believes that the next Prime Minister would be a non-Congress leader. "Either Narendra Modi would become the PM or someone else from one of the other parties, but certainly not the Congress," the NCP leader said. He said that Pawar is bracing himself for the second scenario and is therefore helping some parties, including the MNS. "He is saying that he cannot be PM with his single-digit Lok Sabha seats but he has not exhausted his inner will of governing the country. If the situation demands, he may need support from all regional parties. The political permutations and combinations will change after the Lok Sabha election results," the leader said.

The talk of MNS getting closer to NCP started after Thackeray's secret meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP at a common friend's home at Worli in Mumbai in February this year. A leader from the MNS said that Ajit Pawar has put up an amicable proposal before Raj Thackeray. He says Ajit Pawar has painted a rosy picture that if the NCP could win 80 seats and MNS 40 out of Maharashtra's 288 Assembly seats, they can form a government in alliance. The grapevine is that NCP has already identified candidates who have the potential to win. "Ajit's ambition to become the Chief Minister is an open secret. Raj also wants to reduce the Shiv Sena to dust. He could accept Ajit's proposal," the MNS leader said. Interestingly, the MNS has maintained a studied silence on the Rs 26,000 crore irrigation scam, allegedly involving Ajit Pawar, since the secret meeting.

Then CM Ashok Chavan of the Congress gave power to the MNS in the 2009 elections. The Congress won 17 Lok Sabha and 82 Assembly seats that year. It was its highest number since 1995. Congressmen attribute their victory to the MNS in private conservations. However, the situation has changed now. Thackeray does not share similar vibes with current CM and Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress. He feels that Prithviraj Chavan would not lead the Congress for a long time. He sees a loyal friend in Ajit Pawar, who is keen on state politics rather than a leader like Prithviraj Chavan who has a national profile. "Both Ajit and Raj don't want to grow beyond Maharashtra. MNS is not communal like Shiv Sena. What is the harm if they come together for the state's welfare?" the NCP leader asked.

 
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