Divorce hint perks NCP, Cong cool

New Delhi, Jan. 4: The Congress hasn't taken Sharad Pawar's recent threat of reconsidering the alliance seriously but Nationalist Congress Party leaders appear to believe this is the ideal time to chart a new course and increase the party's political clout.

Congress leaders dismiss this as a "hollow threat", arguing that Pawar is shrewd enough not to set off on a path to political ruin.

Pawar told a meeting in Kerala a few days ago that his party would "reconsider our ties with the Congress if it continues to belittle its ally".

His aide Praful Patel, too, argued recently that Pawar deserved a bigger profile and that the NCP should ensure this by winning more seats in the next election. The Congress has declined to formally respond to these observations.

NCP sources claim that the deaths of Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Congress's tallest leader in Maharashtra, and Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray have changed the political situation in the state. Pawar, they say, has been left the undisputed "political king" of the western state.

These sources believe that the Sena is confused and the Congress rudderless, with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan having failed to emerge as a political leader despite his image as a good administrator.

Many NCP leaders feel that the party can reposition itself to play a bigger role in national politics after the 2014 general election ' a dream nurtured also by other regional parties such as the Trinamul Congress, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and the AIADMK.

The NCP knows that this cannot happen as long as it remains in the Congress-led coalition, for it now barely gets to contest about 20 of Maharashtra's 48 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2009 general election, the NCP contested 21 seats and won nine.

The Congress has so far succeeded in restricting the NCP to the role of a junior partner in the state. In the previous Assembly elections, the Congress contested 170 seats, leaving only 113 for its ally.

The Congress hopes to emerge as the biggest beneficiary of the Sena's expected decline after Thackeray's death because of its stronger presence in the Mumbai-Konkan regions. Therefore, it is not in a mood to yield any further space to the NCP, which can count only Marathwada as a stronghold.

Pawar is said to be in touch with disgruntled Congress leaders and has apparently begun exploring the possibility of contesting all the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

Many Congress MLAs are unhappy because they feel the chief minister is unsympathetic to them and is hurting their political prospects. But the Congress leadership feels that Chavan has succeeded in reining the NCP in through his clampdown on corruption, and the public at large appears happy with his clean image.

The Congress high command, which is anyway peeved with Pawar for his opposition to the food security bill, believes the NCP has no choice but to stick with the Grand Old Party.

"Pawar's ambition is an open secret but he knows his limitations," a senior Congress leader told The Telegraph.

"His party is split among 20 leaders and he himself is struggling to promote his daughter Supriya Sule against the dominance of his nephew Ajit Pawar. The best option for him would be to merge the NCP with the Congress."

Many Congress leaders refuse to entertain the possibility of the NCP walking out of the coalition. They believe that the ally cannot even retain its present Lok Sabha tally of nine if it fights the next election alone.

While some Congress leaders believe that Pawar's periodic threats are a ploy to "extract his pound of flesh", others see this as his way of keeping a third-front window open.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have been able to purchase batting replacements for the loss of Michael Hussey and spin reinforcements in the form of Samuel Badree. They appear… More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »