In what might be considered a major embarassment, the ruling Congress party today decided to withdraw its candidate Mohan Joshi from bypoll to the Maharashtra Legislative Council. This will pave way for the election of Nationalist Congress Party’s state unit chief and former minister Sunil Tatkare to the state council. Tatkare had resigned as the member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Joshi will formally withdraw his nomination before 3 pm today. The decision in this regard was taken at the meeting held last night between state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Joshi confirmed the party’s decision saying that he has withdrawn his nomination and obeyed party’s instructions. Had Joshi not resigned the polling was slated for August 21.
State Congress leaders had taken quite an aggressive stand against NCP’s decision to field Tatkare in the by oll necessitated after the resignation of Shiv Sena leader Vinayak Raut who was elected to the Lok Sabha. Congress had staked the claim citing that the party nominee Sudhakar Gangange had lost the seat in the last election held about two years ago. However, a senior Congress minister said, ”The Party has not fully surrendered to the NCP but it was done in the larger interest to maintain alliance of secular parties especially during the coming assembly poll.”
Congress had argued that it has 82 members in the state assembly and support from 12 independents against NCP’s strength of 62 members and support from 12 independents. Incidentally, opposition Shiv Sena-BJP decided not to field its nominee.
Congress leaders, who had gathered on Wednesday evening here, were unanimous that the party should not succumb to NCP’s pressure tactics and should not withdraw Joshi from the bypoll. Furthermore, they had also made a strong case for the Congress party going solo by contesting all 288 assembly seats by breaking its alliance with NCP in the coming assembly poll slated for October.
However, NCP had contested the Congress claim saying that there was no formal discussion took place between the two and NCP cannot be barred from entering into the fray. Additionally, NCP also recalled that Congress had fielded its candidate in the by election which took place in the past after its member was disqualified in the state council. According to NCP, Tatkare was nominated to contest by poll as he will be travelling across the state during the ensuing election to the state assembly.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik welcomed Congress party’s decision to withdraw its nominee saying that his party will remain with Congress to keep the communal forces at bay. He informed that party president Sharad Pawar and senior leader Praful Patel will hold talks with Congress leaders on August 19 on seat sharing while state leaders will meet in Mumbai on August 20.