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MVA Finalise Seat-Sharing Deal in Maharashtra, Vows to Fight the Elections Together to Oust BJP, Modi

MVA Finalise Seat-Sharing Deal in Maharashtra, Vows to Fight the Elections Together to Oust BJP, Modi

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 9: After hitting a series of roadblocks, the three-party opposition alliance Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Maharashtra has finally reached the seat-sharing agreement with the Congress conceding at least two of the three disputed seats to keep the partnership going just about 10 days before the polling for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections are held on April 19.

The seat-sharing formula and candidates was announced at a joint press conference held at ‘Shivalaya’, the Shiv Sena (UBT) office in south Mumbai on the auspicious “Gudi Padwa” day, the beginning of Marathi New Year, on Tuesday. Under the formula, the 48 seats in the state have been distributed among the three partners with 21 seats going to the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray), 17 seats to the Congress and 10 to the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) while the talks with Mr Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), which has substantial support among the Dalit communities, failed as it kept increasing its demand from five seats to eight seats.

Besides getting the lion’s share of the seats, Mr Thackeray’s Sena, which had led the MVA government before a split in the party cost its dominance, will also contest four of Mumbai’s six seats – North West, South Central, South, and South East seats. The Congress will contest the other two -North and North Central. In the 2019 election the BJP and the then undivided Sena had won three each in urban Mumbai. The two parties then were allies but fell out, in dramatic fashion after the Assembly election later that year.

The Bhiwandi and Sangli seats – which all three claimed, threatening to derail talks – have been given to Mr Pawar’s NCP and Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena. Congress leader Nana Patole called the issue “resolved” and said, “… our workers will work to make the MVA candidates victorious in both seats.”

The State leadership of the Congress was reportedly miffed as Uddhav Thackeray, without consulting with the party, had announced Chandrahar Patil as the Sangli candidate. In Bhiwandi, NCP (SP) announced their candidate even though the Congress wanted to contest from the seat. In Mumbai-South-Central Shiv Sena UBT has given ticket to Anil Desai whereas, Congress wanted to field their own candidate from there.

However, in Tuesday’s joint press conference, the party leaders said there was no disagreement among the MVA partners. NCP (SP) chief, Sharad Pawar said, “There are 48 seats in the state. We do not have any differences in it. Be it Sangli or any other seat in the state. We have discussed and the decision is taken unanimously.”

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader, Uddhav Thackeray said the main goal of this coalition was to defeat the BJP. “It is natural for any partnership to go through rounds of discussions to come to an agreement. Finally, we have closed all our discussions and meetings, and it is time to begin the election campaign in full strength.”

On Shiv Sena (UBT) refusing to give up Sangli seat to the Congress, Mr Thackeray said, “When victory against the BJP is the larger goal, we must set aside our certain indifferences. Our fight is against the Narendra Modi’s party BJP and not with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

To this, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole said, “The Congress party has begun the fight against the dictatorial government. Our party has decided to be large-hearted to achieve the final goal of defeating the BJP. We will never forget how the BJP ill-treated our leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.”

“All the disputes over seat-sharing is over. There is no dispute over Sangli and Bhiwandi. We assure there won’t be any vote transfer issue. The original parties, Shiv Sena and NCP are with us and together the three party will fight against the corrupted party, BJP,” added Mr Patole.

“… we saw what (this) dictatorial government (a reference to the BJP) has been doing. Our workers have worked wholeheartedly, across the country, to fight against these dictatorial people,” Mr Patole said, “The aim is to throw out the BJP. We will work for this.”

“There comes a time when we have to move forward… we have reached this deal with the aim of winning the election. We have done this… now the people will decide,” Mr Thackeray said. Mr Pawar said candidates (for seats not yet announced) will be announced soon.

Taking a political jibe at PM Modi, Mr Thackeray said in a very long time, there was a strange coincidence on Monday, the same day when Mr Modi was campaigning in Maharashtra. “Surya grahan’ (solar eclipse), ‘amavasya’ (new moon) and Modi’s rally– all together at the same day. This strange coincidence the country is witnessing for the first time. it is definitely not a good sign.”

“The speech I gave yesterday was not about the PM of India but about the “Bhrasht Janta Party’s’ (BJP’s) leader Narendra Modi. When we respond to his remarks, please don’t take it as an insult to the PM. Our criticism will be about the leader of a corrupt party,” he said.

Mr Thackeray referred to the remark where PM Modi referred to Shiv Sena (UBT) as a ‘fake Shiv Sena’ party in the state. “It is not right for a leader of a party of extortionists to call us fake. The BJP is an extortionist’s party, and it is quite evident now more than ever as we all are aware of the electoral bonds scam. We wish the people of the country a happy, prosperous and destruction of dictatorship in this New Year!”

Apart from Bhiwandi, NCP faction will also contest the family stronghold of Baramati, which will see a high-profile clash between sitting MP Supriya Sule, who is Sharad Pawar’s daughter, and Sunetra Pawar, who is the wife of Mr Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, who led the rebellion that broke the party.

The MVA’s seat-share deal comes as the MVA and Mr Ambedkar’s VBA have failed to agree on a deal. The VBA held prolonged talks with the tripartite alliance but an agreement was not forthcoming. Mr Ambedkar initially wanted five seats for his party and then upped that demand to eight, most of which had been allotted to either the Congress or Mr Thackeray’s Sena faction.

He also accused the MVA of “trying to use VBA for promoting dynastic politics, which we tried to resist…”, and took a jibe at the bloc, accusing it of “hiding something.” “There is no openness between them… whether they are going to stay together is the question,” Mr Ambedkar, the grandson of Dalit icon and Father of the Constitution, BR Ambedkar, said.

The MVA on Tuesday acknowledged the failure of talks with the VBA. The NCP (SP) leader Jayant Patil told reporters, “We have taken efforts to take people along… but we did fail in a few instances. (Still), many smaller parties are with us.”

Maharashtra votes in five of the seven phases of the 2024 Lok Sabha election – April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, and May 20. The state will also hold an Assembly election later this year.

The MVA is part of the national, Congress-led INDIA bloc formed in June last year to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. The bloc had initially struggled to seal seat-share deals in key states, but has now finalised agreements for Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, as well as Maharashtra.

The turning point, many believe, was the Congress-Aam Aadmi Party’s dramatic win in February’s Chandigarh mayoral election. The allies contested together and were victorious, even if they needed the intervention of the Supreme Court to counter the Returning Officer’s “murder of democracy.”



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