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Gujarat elections: Setback for Congress as NCP may contest all 182 seats

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-09-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi/Ahmedabad: The move to trigger an exodus of cadres of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Gujarat is likely to backfire on the Congress.

Ahead of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Gujarat election campaign launch on Monday, as many as 500 NCP leaders, including core committee members, joined the Gujarat Congress on 3 September in the presence of Congress state in-charge Ashok Gehlot and state unit president Bharatsinh Solanki.

An incensed NCP is now veering round to the view that it will contest all the 182 seats in the crucial state assembly elections later this year.

If indeed the Sharad Pawar-led party carries out the threat, it could erode the anti-BJP vote share in the state making the task of causing an upset that much more difficult for the Congress.

“The Congress party is unable to stop its own leaders from joining the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the house of Congress party is not in order. Instead of concentrating on its own party, Congress leadership is trying to break NCP in Gujarat. This attempt of the Congress party would not only impact NCP-Congress equations but it would also impact the anti-BJP alliance at the national level,” said a senior NCP leader on condition of anonymity.

The NCP leadership is of the view that the party should contest all the assembly seats in Gujarat elections, the same NCP leader added. “NCP had helped Congress when it was in power for 10 years during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre and 15 years in Maharashtra but now Congress is trying to break NCP.”

The friction between the Congress and long-term ally NCP peaked with the re-election of Ahmed Patel, political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, last month. The Congress alleged that the NCP did not support Patel and acted like a “B-team” of BJP.

NCP has been part of Congress-led UPA at the centre as well as in Maharashtra where ties were snapped ahead of the previous state elections.

“NCP has been our old ally but after what happened in the Rajya Sabha polls, it was untenable for us to continue our alliance. We have not sought to break the party in the state. Its leaders who have joined us, have done so on their own will,” a senior Congress leader from Gujarat said requesting anonymity.

According to Manhar Patel, who switched from the NCP to Congress earlier this week, more workers and supporters are likely to switch over soon.

“Those who joined on 3 September included senior leaders and office-bearers. In all, many more NCP workers and followers from various districts have decided to join Congress. Today, except for two MLAs and a handful of office-bearers, NCP is a party without any workers in Gujarat—it is only a banner,” said Patel, who was NCP’s in-charge for elections in Saurashtra and party spokesperson before he quit.

A section of the Congress feels that if NCP and Vaghela contest on all 182 seats it could spell trouble for the party especially given that a lot of seats were won by a slim margin.

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