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NCP blames, bargains
- Faulting Cong for rout, Pawar seeks more seats

Pawar, (above) Patel

Mumbai, May 23 (PTI): UPA ally NCP today blamed the combine’s rout on “Manmohan Singh’s failure to assert himself” and a “complete breakdown of dialogue” between the Congress and its partners as it demanded more seats in the Maharashtra polls.

“It looked as if it was a Congress government and not a UPA government. The political discourse that was there in UPA-I was missing in UPA-II. The Prime Minister was not seen for two months and it was Rahul (Gandhi) who led the campaign,” senior leader Praful Patel told a party meeting to review the Lok Sabha results and prepare for the state polls later this year.

Patel, a Union minister in the UPA who lost the polls, claimed even NCP chief Sharad Pawar was not consulted on important issues as agriculture minister.

Patel said the Congress had failed to “counter the malicious campaign of our opponents”. “It was the responsibility of the Congress as UPA’s single largest party to counter the disinformation campaign, in which it failed.”

Pawar, who also spoke at the meeting, said it appeared that voters had rejected those who were with the UPA. The NCP boss contrasted this with Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha and Naveen Patnaik, whose parties had done well despite the Narendra Modi wave.

While Patel focused on the Congress’s perceived mistakes, Pawar appeared determined to extract a larger pound of flesh from the bruised ally.

“Last time, when we got less seats than the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, they said they should get more Assembly seats to contest. We should remember it this time when we sit to discuss seat sharing we should remember we have won more seats... our position has improved,” Pawar said.

The NCP contested 21 seats and won four, while the Congress bagged two of the 27 seats it fought — the worst-ever showing in the state. The NCP has been a junior partner of the Congress in Maharashtra’s ruling coalition that has been in power for the past 15 years.

Pawar said the Congress and the NCP should not lose time in finalising seat-sharing and preparing for Assembly polls. In the 2009 state polls, the NCP had contested 114 seats and the Congress 174 in the 288-member House.

State party chief Manikrao Thakre, asked about the NCP’s demand, said: “It is better to claim seats during the co-ordination committee meeting (between the allies) than talk about it to the media.”