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Maharashtra polls: Sore smaller allies grumble

As Maharashtra election battle for 288 seats reaches a crescendo, the smaller allies of both the ruling and opposition parties appear glum about the kind of treatment meted out to them.
Maharashtra polls: Sore smaller allies grumble

The BJP-Shiv Sena has its allies like Union Minister Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (A), Vinayak Mete's Shiv Sangram, Mahadev Jankar-led Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and Sadabhau Khot's Rayat Kranti Sanghatana.

Despite initial chest-thumping that the RPI would not contest under the BJP's 'Lotus' symbol - as mandated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis - at the last minute he concurred.

He announced that the RPI(A) in the larger interest of the 'Maha-Yuti', would contest on the BJP symbol to prevent division of votes and submitted his list of nominees.

However, BJP dumped almost the entire list of eight candidates including Deepak Nikhalje, the brother of incarcerated mafia don Chhota Rajan Nikhalje, from Phaltan constituency, and handpicked the other nominees.

Party sources indicate that the sudden somersault by Athawale could be prompted by a 'gentle reminder' over his upcoming re-election to Rajya Sabha, where his current tenure expires mid-2020, and he has no hopes of returning to the upper house without BJP's support or even retaining his coveted MoS status at the centre.

RSP's Jankar has openly alleged that he had been taken for a ride on the issue of seat distribution.

"They (BJP) have cheated me", he said at a media briefing after the BJP unceremoniously ejected two out of his three nominees and replaced them with Rahul Kul in Daund and Meghana Bordikar in Jintur, leaving only one - Ratnakar Gutte from Gangakhed, technically representing the RSP.

The Congress-NCP led 'Maha-Aghadi' also has problems when the Samajwadi Party suddenly dropped out of the alliance comprising Peasants & Workers Party, Peoples Republican Party, CPI(M), CPI and Swabhimani Shetkar Sanghatana, among others.

"We have split from the Maha-Aghadi," an agitated SP State President Abu Asim Azmi announced after its demand for contesting 50 of the 288 seats was spurned and he was allotted only three seats.

They include Mankhurd-Shivajinagar from where Azmi is standing, but in Bhiwandi East, Congress has put up a candidate and in Aurangabad, the local Congress is opposing the SP nominee.

The 'Maha-Aghadi' attempted an alliance with the CPI(M), but the latter has put up a senior communist leader Narsayya Adam from Solapur South-Central seat in a 'friendly fight', against Pranati Shinde, daughter of veteran Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde is contesting.

"We have put up seven candidates in 'friendly contests' and one in Palghar as part of 'Maha-Aghadi'... This is because seats promised to us were not given," CPI(M) state spokespeson P. S. Prasad told .

On the other hand, the Congress offered a nomination to Shetti's candidate in Khamgaon without his clearance, fouling up the mood further.

The Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi's smaller ally All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is also unhappy after the former doled out only eight seats against a demand for at least 100, and walked out of the alliance.

"Now, the AIMIM is contesting around 44 seats independently and our chief Asasuddin Owaisi will be addressing several rallies in the state," an AIMIM spokesperson told .

Besides, there are unofficial 'winking tie-ups' with the Congress, NCP in certain constituencies as it keeps a tiny window open for possible post-poll permutations and combinations.

Added to this cacophony of multi-party contests, former union minister and state chief minister Shinde came out with his musings that the Congress-NCP should merge in the future as "both are tired", but the BJP-Sena exploited it to demand: "They are tired of 'eating' (corruption)? What have they done in 15 years".

Even the NCP President Sharad Pawar and former Deputy CM Ajit Pawar hit back at Congress saying the proposal for a merger was Shinde's personal view and ruled out any such possibility.

As in the past, the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP combines' leaders, defended their moves of keeping smaller allies on a tight leash on grounds of 'winning factor' and 'division of alliance votes', besides the spectre of post-poll problems in case of a crisis of majority where even one seat could make or mar the alliances' prospects.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@.in)

( With inputs from IANS )

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