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Praful Patel attacks Congress, says NCP has no allies in Maharashtra

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel on Monday lashed out at the Congress, blaming it for his party's downfall in Maharashtra.

Addressing a rally in Akola, Patel accused the Congress of defaming the NCP when the two shared power in the state Assembly, before the BJP-Shiv Sena combine defeated their alliance in 2014.

Patel directly attacked former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress, saying he was responsible for defaming the NCP when the two parties shared power in Maharashtra. "In the last five years, it is because of the Congress party that its workers, supporters and NCP have suffered," said the former Union Minister for Civil Aviation.

Indirectly referring to the arrest of NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, Patel said: "All these scams weren't really scams, but they were conspiracies by the Congress itself and leaders like Prithviraj Chavan to defame us. They didn't see as many enemies in BJP as they saw in the NCP. Their focus was to put us down. They sank and they took us down."

Significance of the remarks

Patel's remarks come right before the local body elections to be held in Akola next month, and he categorically said that the NCP does not have alliance with any political party in Maharashtra.

His comments suggest that all is not well between the two allies, and the NCP no longer sees an alliance with the Congress as profitable.

Patel went on to add: "We don't have to support the Congress for each and every thing. If people at a regional level consider is appropriate to maintain relations with Congress, they will. But as of now, we do not have a coalition with any party in Maharashtra or in the country."

However, the timing of such an attack is questionable, considering that the NCP has remained silent for two years since losing the Assembly elections. Political analysts see it as a strategy for immediate political gains, considering many local body elections, including the prestigious Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, are due early next year.

Tariq Anwar's clarification

Explaining the NCP's stand, senior party leader Tariq Anwar said the attack was specifically on Chavan, whose high-handedness during his stint as Chief Minister was questionable. "Even the Congress realised it later. He didn't follow the coalition dharma, and all his attacks were directed at the NCP, and not at the BJP or the Shiv Sena," he said.

Anwar stressed that this would have no bearing on the NCP's relations with the Congress at the national level and said: "Chavan is to be blamed for the loss during the Assembly elections in Maharashtra. His behaviour towards the allies was not acceptable at all. He even misled the senior Congress leadership on the alliance."

Following the results of the 2014 general elections, the NCP wanted to contest 144 seats and wanted the allies to share the CM's seat under a rotation system. The Congress denied any such understanding and declared candidates for 118 seats without even consulting the NCP, which made matters worse between the two allies. Congress then aligned with the Samajwadi Party in the state, ending its 15-year-old alliance with the NCP.

Congress dismisses rift

Meanwhile, the Congress dismissed all rumors of a rift between the two allies, and called it 'region-specific' at a place where elections are due next month. "There is nothing new in these accusations, and even the Congress had conceded that the treatment meted out to the NCP during Chavan's tenure was unfortunate. However, this will have no impact on our relations," said a Congress leader from Maharashtra.

Surprisingly, Patel said the NCP does not need anyone's help and can bounce back without anybody's support. His comments are in direct contradiction with those of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who had asked the party's state unit chiefs in various poll-bound states to commence talks with like-minded parties. The NCP chief is particularly keen on having an alliance with the Congress in UP, Goa, Gujarat and also the MCGM polls.

The Congress gave a cold shoulder to his request, and asserted it was planning to go solo to strengthen its base in these states.

Over the past few years, NCP has been losing ground in various states, especially Maharashtra, where it managed to win only 41 out of 278 seats it contested in the 2014 Assembly polls. Compare that to 2009, when it had an alliance with Congress and it had won 62 out of 113 seats.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 12 September 2016, 7:43 IST