Senior Cong, NCP ministers from Maharashtra may contest LS polls

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New Delhi, Nov 10: A dozen senior Ministers from Maharashtra--both from Congress and NCP--may be asked to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, a move seen as an attempt to counter BJP under its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar has already given the signal to several senior Ministers of his party to be ready to contest the Parliamentary polls at a time when his party is desperately trying to put up a good show.

A parallel move is also on in the state Congress with a senior leader, who declined to be identified, saying today that party Ministers as also some former Chief Ministers may be fielded in the General Elections due in May next.

The names of former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Ministers Narayan Rane, Rajendra Mulak, Satej Patil, Sanjay Deotale and Balasaheb Thorat are doing the rounds in Congress circles as possible candidates.

While Chavan has once represented Nanded, Rane hails from Sindhudurg in Konkan region, Mulak from Nagpur, Satej Patil from Kolhapur and Deotale from Chandrapur.

Though Thorat hails from Ahmednagar district, he could be moved to Aurangabad district. PCC Chief Manikrao Thakre is also reported to be not averse to contesting the polls from his native Yavatmal.

Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik, Jayant Patil, Jaidutt Kshirsagar, Anil Deshmukh are some of the senior Ministers from the NCP who could be asked to jump into the electoral fray.

With 48 Lok Sabha seats at stake, Maharashtra, which is the second largest state after Uttar Pradesh in terms of number of parliamentary constituencies, has a crucial place in the strategy of the Congress which is sharing power in the state with NCP since 1999.

It has remained a Congress state which has been in power for most of the time since its formation in 1960 except in 1995 when Shiv Sena-BJP could form the government there for one term.

With 48 Lok Sabha seats at stake, Maharashtra is the 2nd largest state after UP.

Since Pawar parted ways with Congress, his party NCP has remained its ally. But NCP has failed to get much seats in the Lok Sabha. In the last elections, it could win only eight out of the 22 seats it contested in alliance with Congress.

Congress won 17 of the 26 seats it contested. This time, the NCP wants a minimum of 12 seats in its kitty to remain politically relevant.

Shiv Sena-BJP remained unruffled by the Congress-NCP plans. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said the move showed that the "plight" of the ruling alliance has forced them to think of fielding state Ministers.

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said such "gimmicks will not work". He claimed that the opposition BJP-Shiv Sena-RPI combine is set to secure a minimum of 35 of the 48 seats as "people are fed up with the 15-year Congress-NCP misrule and corruption".

The Lok Sabha polls have an added significance for all the political players in the state as the Assembly elections are also scheduled next year, just four months after the Parliamentary elections if it is held in May.

Politics in the state is expected to hot up after the results of the Assembly polls in five states will be out next month.


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