The Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party have decided to continue their alliance for the coming assembly elections in Maharashtra, expected to be held by the end of this year. The two parties won just six of the state's 48 seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections -- four seats had gone to the NCP and two to the Congress.
Soon after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, in which the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena performed well, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray and reiterated that the two parties will fight the assembly elections together and set a target of 200-plus seats.
This left the Congress and the NCP with no options but to fight together.
The Congress and the NCP had broken off their 15-year-old ruling alliance in Maharashtra ahead of the 2014 assembly polls after they failed to resolve a dispute over seat sharing.
The split played into the hands of the BJP, and following its equally acrimonious parting with the Shiv Sena, the election turned into a four-cornered contest.
But after a split verdict, the BJP and the Sena patched up their differences to form government in the state. Of the 288 assembly seats, the BJP won 122 seats, the Shiv Sena 63 seats, the Congress 42 and the NCP 41 seats.
This time, the Congress and Mr Pawar's party got together ahead of the national polls, and despite a rocky start, had managed to stick together. Sharad Pawar had been one of the key interlocuters of the opposition ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The alliance expects Vanchit Bahujan Agahdi of Prakash Ambedkar - an umbrella organization of nearly 200 groups and parties that even includes the AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) of Asaduddin Owaisi -- to join up.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, talks between the VBA and the Congress had fallen through. The Congress had promptly tagged the VBA the "B" Team of the BJP.
The rainbow coalition has significantly increased its voteshare in the Lok Sabha election from .22 per cent to around 7 per cent. It could be a significant addition for the Congress, which managed to get only 16 per cent votes.
The Congress on Tuesday said they do not expect any leader other than its senior leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil to defect to the BJP. His son Sujay Vikhe Patil has already crossed over.
"Technically, he (Mr Vikhe Patil) is still the member of the Congress. It is likely he may join the ruling party. I don't think our MLAs will join the BJP," state Congress chief Ashok Chavan told reporters after the meeting of the two parties on Tuesday.
"The BJP is trying to poach the Congress or NCP MLAs. But I don't think it will happen, we are being alert," Mr Chavan was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
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