Mumbai: The Congress has acceded to the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) demands for an equal number of Lok Sabha (LS) seats in Maharashtra. Both parties will contest 24 seats each in the coming elections. Earlier, the formula was 26 for Congress and 22 for NCP. Now, both will accommodate smaller parties from their quota.
As talks over an alliance between Congress and NCP started, the latter party demanded an equal number of seats. In 2014, both parties contested the LS elections together and at the time the NCP had contested 21 seats whereas Congress had contested 26 seats. One seat out of Maharashtra’s 48 was left for a smaller alliance partner. The NCP won four seats while the Congress managed to bag only two. This time, NCP made the argument that since it had won more seats than the Congress, it should have an equal number of seats this time around.
Looking at the need for an alliance to take on the might of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Con-gress leadership did not draw out the matter and accepted the NCP’s dema-nd. “Now, Congress and NCP will both get 24 seats each. This is happening for the first time since the inception of the NCP 20 years ago,” said an NCP leader.
It has been also decided that both parties will have to accommodate smaller parties from their zones. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana will get one seat, Hatkanangale, whe-re its leader Raju Shetti is a Member of Parliament. This seat will be adjusted from the NCP’s quota. On the other hand, Hitendra Thakur’s Bahujan Vikas Aghadi will get Palghar from the Congress’ quota.
“Communists and other parties have also demanded LS seats. We are trying to convince them that it is not possible. They will be given Assembly seats in an alliance,” said a Congress leader.
Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh will have to deal with the Congress directly now. He wanted the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to be kept out from the Opposition alliance, but that was not practical. Mr Ambedkar was asking for 12 Lok Sabha seats from Congress. There is buzz that though the demand is high, Mr Ambedkar will settle for two Lok Sabha seats: Akola and Solapur. The Congress will have to find a way to get him on board now.
“Akola has been a bastion of Mr Ambedkar but Solapur was contested by last time Sushilkumar Shinde. In that case, giving this seat to him will be the bigger challenge before Congress. Few leaders are trying to convince Mr Ambedkar in a personal capacity,” said a Maharashtra Congress leader who preferred to remain anonymous.