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Tie in mind, Pawar pads up

New Delhi, Oct. 15: Sharad Pawar has dropped anchor in Mumbai ahead of the vote count tomorrow to lead the ruling combine's efforts to cobble up a majority in the event of a hung Maharashtra Assembly.

With the Shiv Sena-BJP combine equally determined to make a bid for power if the popular verdict is split, the Congress is understood to be depending on its ally's skills to muster quick support to stake claim to government formation.

Yesterday, the Nationalist Congress Party chief is believed to have shared his assessment about the likely poll outcome with senior Congress leaders Margaret Alva and Digvijay Singh, both AICC general secretaries, who, too, are camping in Mumbai.

There is believed to be considerable anxiety in the Congress camp, particularly over results from crucial western Maharashtra where the ruling combine was dogged by rebel candidates.

But Pawar has assured the Congress leadership that even in the worst case, the coalition would not get less than 130 seats (15 short of majority mark) in the 288-member Assembly.

Sources said his assessment is that a dozen 'rebels' from the NCP and the Congress are likely to win; Pawar is believed to have already established contact with them.

He has also told the Congress leadership that the CPM and the Peasants and Workers Party would together win half-a-dozen seats. The Congress-NCP had spurned the PWP's overtures for seat-sharing in the run-up to the polls.

But Pawar is apparently confident that the PWP would lean towards the ruling combine and not the rival camp 'even if it emerges the single largest pre-poll block in the new Assembly'.

In Delhi, the Congress dismissed suggestions that the poll outcome would be a referendum on the party-led Centre. 'I don't think there is the slightest connection between the Maharashtra Assembly polls and the performance of the UPA government at the Centre,' spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said today.

Maharashtra, he added, would witness his party's 'inexorable march to victory' as seen in the Lok Sabha polls and recently in Arunachal Pradesh.

The brave front notwithstanding, the Congress leadership is said to be increasingly reliant on Pawar as majority support would have to be mobilised ' if necessary ' within the quickest possible time.

Governor Mohammad Fazal has already written to leaders of all parties to submit by Monday the information on pre-poll and post-poll alliances and their strength in the new Assembly.

This, he wrote, would help him initiate the process of government formation.

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