Rahul Gandhi’s One-Hour Phone Call With Uddhav Thackeray Amid Seats Row

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Rahul Gandhi's One-Hour Phone Call With Uddhav Thackeray Amid Seats Row

Mumbai:

As the Congress labours through intense seat negotiations with INDIA bloc allies ahead of the national election, Rahul Gandhi dialled Uddhav Thackeray yesterday to discuss the deadlock over eight of Maharashtra’s 48 seats.

Rahul Gandhi, who is in the middle of a Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, reportedly spoke to the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader for an hour.

The Congress, say sources, want to contest three of Mumbai’s six Lok Sabha seats – Mumbai South Central, Mumbai North Central and Mumbai North West. Uddhav Thackeray reportedly wants to contest 18 Lok Sabha seats in the state, including four in Mumbai – Mumbai South, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North East and Mumbai South Central.

For the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress, the seat talks are entirely uncharted territory as the parties formed the ideologically mismatched alliance after the last Lok Sabha election in 2019. The three have managed an agreement on nearly 40 seats but negotiators are stuck on eight seats.

The undivided Shiv Sena fought 22 of 48 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and won 18, including three in Mumbai.

Uddhav Thackeray’s party ended its 25-year alliance with the BJP months later, after failing to agree on power-sharing terms following the Maharashtra state polls.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed after the Shiv Sena split and Eknath Shinde’s faction formed a new government with the BJP.

Earlier this year, Sharad Pawar’s NCP suffered a similar rupture, with the veteran’s nephew Ajit Pawar joining the Eknath Shinde-BJP coalition government.

The Congress fears a similar exodus after two of its prominent leaders in Maharashtra, former chief minister Ashok Chavan, and Milind Deora, crossed over to the BJP.

The defections have complicated the seat negotiations for the Maharashtra opposition allies.

Sources say Uddhav Thackeray’s party, after the Congress defections, wants a greater share in Mumbai seats.

However, sources assert that Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge are all determined to make it work, aware that for each party, it is a battle for survival.

The Congress recently sealed difficult seat sharing deals with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.

The party has also redoubled efforts to close a deal with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has refused to part with more than five of her state’s 42 seats.

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