Maharashtra assembly polls: Challenges ahead of 'non-performing' NCP

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With the make-or-break Assembly elections in Maharashtra just a couple of months away, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is facing an unprecedented crisis. The party is losing momentum with every passing day.

Issues like dispute over seat-sharing with ally Congress, mass exodus of leaders have sent the party into jitter. For the first time in its 15 years of existence, the NCP is struggling hard to maintain its image and position.

Following are some of the issues which could haunt the party ahead of the Assembly polls.

Altercation over seat-sharing with Congress

Even as the Opposition, Mahayuti alliance is on the verge of reaching an agreement on seat-sharing, the ruling Congress-NCP alliance is still clueless over the seat sharing.

While the NCP is demanding more seats from the Congress, the party is adamant on retaining the 2009 Assembly polls formula. In 2009 Assembly elections, the Congress had contested 174 seats while the NCP fielded its candidates on 114 seats.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the ongoing altercation, the NCP has commenced a process to interview candidates for all 288 Assembly seats. According to sources, this is being done as fallback in case the seat sharing talks fails.

Recently, Shiv Sena took a dig at the seat sharing talks between the two allies, saying, "Both parties are fighting over seat sharing for the upcoming elections and are saying that they can win the elections even without an alliance. But a massive defeat is lined up for both parties whether they fight as partners or not."

Speaking on the issue, State Congress chief Manikrao Thakare said that NCP's demand for more seats is not justified and that its step to interview candidates is wrong. He said Congress high command would be informed about the same.

NCP, the junior partner in the alliance, is not going to accept the status quo easily. Since, NCP won double the number of Lok Sabha seats than the Congress, the party leaders will be seeking more seats for Assembly polls. In recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won two while NCP won four seats in the State.

Defection of leaders to BJP-Sena alliance

For the first time in its 15 years of existence, the NCP has lost at least a dozen its legislators and key local leaders to the BJP and Shiv Sena. Though both the NCP and Congress are fighting with regular exodus of leaders, the NCP has witnessed more leaders quitting the party.

And this exodus seems far from over, with a few more leaders expected to end ties with the party soon. The BJP recently claimed that 32 more leaders from the NCP and Congress would join the party in coming days. The NCP suffered the biggest blow at a time when former Union Minister and a staunch Pawar supporter Suryakanta Patil quit the party. Patil is expected to join the BJP soon.

Moreover, leaders like Anil Babar, Deepak Kesarkar, Dhawalsingh Mohite-Patil and Prataprao Chikhlikar have joined the Shiv Sena, while Sanjay Patil joined the BJP.

Leadership crisis

With just a few months to go for the Maharashtra Assembly polls, the Congress - Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has plunged into a major leadership crisis. As ageing party chief Sharad Pawar has already made announcement of not fighting the upcoming Assembly election, the party does not have any other leader who could match his charismatic appeal. The tenure of Ajit Pawar has been surrounded by controversies, hence his image is not so good among the masses. Contrary to this, new generation of leaders is emerging in BJP-Sena camp.

The saffron alliance appears aggressive after its electoral victory.

MIM's foray in Maharashtra

Reports suggest that the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) will test electoral waters in Maharashtra in alliance with some prominent Dalit and backward caste organizations. The move has caused panic in the ruling Congress-NCP camp as it would cut into secular votes and thus, benefit the BJP-Sena combine.

MIM has significant presence in some parts of the State. It came second to the Congress in Nanded civic polls in 2012, pushing the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to the third spot.

Dalits constitute 16% of the total voters in the State while the Muslims' share is about 13%.

Tough fight from BJP-Sena

After the spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha poll, the BJP-Sena combine is better placed now as compared to the NCP-Congress alliance. Despite the loss of Gopinath Munde, BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is well placed to contest the Assembly elections.

Pre-poll surveys have already predicted a landslide victory for the BJP-Sena alliance in the State polls. It is predicted that the BJP-Sena alliance will give a tough fight to the party in its traditional bastions.

Anti-incumbency factor

The NCP-Congress combination is dealing with the fallout of anti-incumbency on the heels of three successive terms. The alliance is in power since 1999 and so far, it's tenure has been in controversies for various reasons. Adarsh scam, Irrigation scam and corruption charges against leaders and Ministers have hit headlines.

Maharashtras record of job creation has been lacklustre and its crucial sugar sector is struggling. A tragic incident such as the Pune landslide reflects poorly on governance. The NCP-Congress Government has been hard hit in rural Maharashtra where the agrarian community is dissatisfied with Governments efforts in dealing with problem of drought and the hailstorm.

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