Congress, Maharashtra Allies Agree Deal For 39 Seats, Nine To Go: Sources

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Congress, Maharashtra Allies Agree Deal For 39 Seats, Nine To Go: Sources

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray (File).

Mumbai:

The Congress’ efforts to lock down seat-sharing deals for the general election have taken another step forward, sources said Friday, after talks with Maharashtra allies for 39 of the state’s 48 seats. 

This follows Rahul Gandhi’s outreach to Shiv Sena (UBT) boss Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s faction of the Nationalist Congress Party. The party already has a deal with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party for 17 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats and one with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party for three of Delhi’s seven.

The Congress has also reached out to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool to restart talks that fell through last month after the Bengal Chief Minister refused to budge from her offer – two of the state’s 42 seats.

Congress sources told NDTV the party had lowered its ask to five seats – but a Trinamool spokesperson played that down, declaring “Even with binoculars we are unable to find a third seat for Congress”.

READ | “Even With Binoculars…”: Trinamool Sources On Congress’ 5-Seat Demand

Back in Maharashtra, the INDIA allies are understood to have differences over eight seats, including two in Mumbai – South Central and North West – that the Sena (UBT) and Congress both want.

There is also a delay over demands by Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi boss Prakash Ambedkar, who wants five seats, sources have said. Mr Ambedkar’s party contested 47 seats in the 2019 election but failed to win any. The VBA also contested 236 seats in the 2019 Assembly election and did not open its account.

The Sena (then undivided and allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party) contested 23 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and won 18, including Mumbai South Central and North West. The Congress contested 25 and only won Chandrapur, while Sharad Pawar’s NCP (also then undivided) fought from 19 seats and won four.

The BJP dominated that election, winning 23 of the 25 seats it contested.

The Congress’ attempts at sealing seat-share deals in Maharashtra – a key state since it sends the most MPs to the Lower House after UP – have been complicated by defections, most recently Ashok Chavan.

READ | “Congress Changing Is Not The Problem, Not Changing Is”: Ashok Chavan To NDTV

The former Chief Minister quit and joined the BJP, in the space of 48 hours, and is now a Rajya Sabha MP. That was after senior leader Milind Deora walked out and into Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Sena.

Sources have said Mr Thackeray’s party, aware the Congress is on the back-foot, more so given its recent poor electoral record, wants a greater share of Lok Sabha seats from state capital Mumbai.

All parties involved, however, are keen to work out a deal, since they understand the 2024 election is, in many ways, a battle for survival against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll-winning machine, the BJP.

Set up in June, the bloc has already lost Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) – a founding member – and Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtra Lok Dal, which has influence among the Jat community in western UP. Both the JDU and the RLD have aligned with the BJP.

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