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  • Ditched by NCP in favour of saffron combine, Congress pits Avinash Pande against Rahul Bajaj

Mumbai, Jun 7: With industrialist Rahul Bajaj filing the nomination for the sole Rajya Sabha seat vacated by the untimely death of Pramod Mahajan, an uneasy tension has been created among the alliance partners in the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra as well as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Now only time will decide whether this rift may widen or a truce may be struck between these two warring parties.

Differences between  Congress and NCP came out in the open on Monday with Congress fielding its candidate against Rahul Bajaj, who has been pitted jointly by the opposition BJP-Shiv Sena combine with the backing of Sharad Pawar for the June 15 Rajya Sabha by-election. Rattled by its partner ditching it in favour of the saffron front, Congress nominated an MPCC office-bearer Avinash Pande as its candidate to take on Bajaj.

AICC General Secretary Margaret Alva accused Pawar of going back on his word of support to the Congress in the by-election and asserted that it would not withdraw its candidate from the by-election. Though Congress has now emerged as the single largest party with 73 seats in the state Assembly, the combined strength of the NCP and Sena-BJP is 183. Despite frantic attempts by the Congress leadership to persuade Pawar, who is away in London, the NCP remained unmoved.

While declaring its support to Bajaj, the Shiv Sena Executive President, Uddhav Thackeray said, "Bajaj was a good candidate who would be able to represent the state in the Rajya Sabha. Speaking to reporters at Vidhan Bhavan, he stated it was a unanimous choice. At the same time, BJP group leader in state Assembly, Gopinath Munde said; "Bajaj represents a family which has contributed immensely in the freedom movement. Congress should withdraw its candidate and support Bajaj," Munde added.

Significantly, the development has come close on the heels of the Legislative Council elections, which saw strained relations between Congress and the NCP as all the four Congress candidates got elected. Now, once again, both the parties are standing in front of each other.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh disapproved of NCP’s adamant stance. He said, "The lone Rajya Sabha seat in the state should go to Congress which is now the single largest party. In Rajya Sabha elections last time (following the resignation of Sanjay Nirupam), the seat had gone to the NCP as their numbers were more and we had supported them. This time, our numbers are more so it is natural that the seat should come to the party," he told reporters.


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