Within a few hours of this newspaper reaching your residence, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar would probably be laying his cards on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s table, clarifying on his party’s future role in UPA-2.
The direction in which Pawar finally blows is sure to have considerable impact on the government at the Centre, but in Pune, no one is really holding their breath. While NCP and Congress are alliance partners in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), with 51 and 28 seats respectively, differences between them are deeply entrenched.
• In a rare show of unity, alliance partners NCP and Congress with their mayoral and deputy mayoral candidates at the time of filing nominations after the civic polls in February
Consider these — they didn’t share seats in the civic polls despite having been alliance partners from 2009- 12, their senior leaders openly berate each other in the General Body during key discussions like the budget.
July, though, has seen an upsurge in the bickering with differences coming out very publicly. In the first week, NCP members of the PMC legal committee didn’t take the absence of committee chairperson — a Congress corporator — into consideration and approved the merger of fringe villages into PMC limits.
Taken unawares, Congress responded by seeking Opposition parties’ support, got a special meeting to be held and ensured the NCP-powered merger decision was overturned. Around a week later, deputy CM and NCP heavyweight Ajit Pawar’s decision to release drinking water to Daund raised Congress hackles.
The party openly opposed the proposal, leading to a four-day stalemate, even as the district collector sat on the decision and Daund waited.
Now, with the alliance at the Centre in choppy waters and little love lost in Maharashtra, political watchers are considering putting their money on the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) joining hands with NCP to give it majority in the PMC.
On Monday, snide remarks were rife in PMC corridors with a Congress leader ‘urging’ MNS corporators to sit with the NCP. With 29 seats in the civic body as compared to Congress’ 28, MNS could emerge the key factor in the event of the existing alliance falling apart.
Considering the fluid political situation at all levels of government, no one from either party was ready to speak on record, but a a senior NCP leader said the tussle between the parties might affect political equations at the city level.
“Without the Congress, it will become difficult for NCP to get its resolutions passed and run the civic body. Also, BJP and Shiv Sena might take advantage of the situation to corner NCP,” the leader said.
In the recent past, MNS corporators abstained from voting during elections to the posts of Standing Committee chairman and Mayor, clearing the path for NCP to push its candidates through.
Kumar Saptarshi, a former Janata Party MLA and leader, Yuvak Kranti Dal, said that considering Sharad Pawar’s style of politics, it would take some more days for a clear picture to emerge.
“It’s all shadow boxing right now between the two parties. It seems that ultimately there would be some sort of understanding between them. But if these parties start a real fight then they would cause immense harm to each other,” Saptarshi said.
• In the run-up to the municipal elections in February, both NCP and Congress went it alone and did away with seat-sharing. This, in spite of being alliance partners in the civic body prior to the polls. After the election results were declared, both parties joined hands again
• During the presentation of the PMC budget in April by NCP leader and Standing Committee chairman Baburao Chandere, the most severe criticism on the floor was by Congress group leader Arvind Shinde, the former Standing Committee chairman
• Things came to a head in July first week , when NCP corporators in the legal committee passed a resolution approving the merger of 25 fringe villages with PMC in the absence of the legal committee chairman, a Congressman. The next day, Congress joined hands with MNS and BJP to reverse the NCP decision in a special meeting
• On July 13, Congress linked up with the Opposition to oppose the release of drinking water to Daund from the Khadakwasla Dam. The move to give water to Daund was at the behest of deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar