Congress, Uddhav Sena to keep plan B ready for 2024 polls without NCP

Congress, Uddhav Sena to keep plan B ready for 2024 polls without NCP

MVA’s plan B without Sharad Pawar: Congress high command to decide, says Nana Patole



The political scenario in Maharashtra may take a new turn in the coming days, as the Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) are reportedly considering a plan B to contest the 2024 general election without the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. The reason behind this move is the growing distrust between the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies over the secret meetings between Pawar and his rebel nephew Ajit Pawar, who has joined hands with the BJP.

The MVA crisis

The MVA, which comprises the Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena (UBT), came to power in Maharashtra in November 2019 after a dramatic political twist that saw the BJP losing its ally Shiv Sena (UBT) over the issue of chief ministerial post. The three parties formed a post-poll alliance and agreed to share power under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, who became the first Thackeray to occupy the top post in the state.

However, the MVA has been facing several challenges since its inception, ranging from handling the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers' protests, corruption allegations, caste-based reservations, and internal differences. The biggest threat to the stability of the coalition, however, has been the ambiguous role of Sharad Pawar, who is seen as the kingmaker and troubleshooter of the MVA.

Pawar, who is a veteran politician and former Union minister, has been keeping his MVA allies on tenterhooks by his repeated meetings with Ajit Pawar, who had briefly defected to the BJP and became the deputy chief minister in a short-lived government led by Devendra Fadnavis in November 2019. Although Ajit Pawar later returned to the NCP fold and joined the MVA cabinet, his loyalty to his uncle and his party has been under question ever since.

The Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) have openly voiced their discontent over the secret meetings between the Pawars, suspecting that they may be plotting to join hands with the BJP and topple the MVA government. The latest meeting between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar took place on August 14 at a farmhouse in Pune, which was attended by some other NCP leaders as well.

The plan B

According to a report by The Indian Express¹, the Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) are mulling over a plan B to contest the 2024 general election without Sharad Pawar on board. The report claimed that both the parties have started preparing for their respective Lok Sabha constituencies and are ready to go solo or form an alliance with each other if Pawar decides to switch sides.

Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole confirmed this possibility on August 15, saying that a final decision would be taken by the party’s high command. “Of course, it bothers us. The secret meetings between Pawars is a matter of concern for the Congress. But I cannot make a final decision on it (MVA). It is the party high command that will decide the future course of action,” Patole told reporters at party headquarters Tilak Bhavan after the flag-hoisting ceremony on Independence Day.

Patole further said that the Congress has a clear position that it will join everyone ready to fight the BJP. He also said that he had spoken to Rahul Gandhi about this issue and that he had met Uddhav Thackeray and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday for over two-and-a-half hours.

The Congress has asked its observers to travel to all 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra and analyse the ground reality. The party will hold a core committee meeting in Mumbai on August 16 to discuss this report. The Shiv Sena (UBT) is also working on its election strategy and has finalised its plan for its constituencies.

The NCP response

The NCP, on the other hand, has dismissed any speculation about its loyalty to the MVA and has claimed that Sharad Pawar has no intention of joining hands with the BJP. NCP leader and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule said that she had personally spoken to the key leaders in Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) and that there was no need to worry about them by anyone else.

Sule said that her father and NCP president Sharad Pawar had clarified his stand about the BJP at a press conference in Sangola in Solapur district. Pawar had said that he would not join hands with the BJP. Sule also said that Sharad Pawar's resignation as NCP chief due to health reasons would not affect the MVA coalition.

The NCP has also said that the meetings between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar were not secret and that they were discussing party affairs and state issues. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the MVA was united and strong and that there was no question of any plan B.

The future of MVA

The future of the MVA in Maharashtra depends on the trust and cooperation among its three constituents. The Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) have shown their willingness to work together and fight against the BJP, but they are also wary of Sharad Pawar's moves and motives. The NCP, on its part, has tried to reassure its allies that it is committed to the MVA, but it has also kept its options open by maintaining cordial relations with the BJP.

The MVA will have to face several challenges in the coming months, such as the local body elections, the Covid-19 situation, the Maratha reservation issue, and the corruption cases against some of its ministers. The coalition will also have to deal with the growing aspirations and ambitions of its leaders, especially those who are eyeing the chief ministerial post in 2024.

The MVA will have to prove its mettle and deliver on its promises to the people of Maharashtra, who have given it a mandate to rule for five years. The MVA will also have to maintain its unity and harmony among its diverse partners, who have different ideologies and agendas. The MVA will have to survive the test of time and trust, or else it may face the risk of falling apart before completing its term.

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