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Defeat in Gujarat election teaches Congress, NCP a lesson; parties may turn friends again for 2019 polls to stem saffron tide

Nagpur: Two days after the Gujarat election results were announced, giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a sixth straight win in the western state, rival parties have already begun making their plans, in an attempt to ensure the saffron party doesn't repeat its victory in the Lok Sabha elections hardly 16 months from now.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which was once an ally of the Congress, had split after seat-sharing agreement didn't work out. However, leaders from both parties have underlined the importance for them to remain united ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, in order to ensure they can take on the BJP.

 Defeat in Gujarat election teaches Congress, NCP a lesson; parties may turn friends again for 2019 polls to stem saffron tide

Representational image. AFP

A section of leaders from both parties said the two parties should put their differences aside and come together for the sake of the state's politics. At least four MLAs from the two parties have gone public in the days following announcement of results in Gujarat, underlining the need to forge an alliance ahead of the 2019 election.

Congress MLAs Sunil Kedar and Yashomati Thakur, and NCP's Jitendra Aawhad and Shashikant Shinde have all gone on record to say they would prefer an alliance ahead of Parliament and Maharashtra Assembly elections, both due for 2019.

"Formation of an alliance is an important decision and should be taken at the right time. There needs to be a change in New Delhi in 2019, and if Congress and NCP can come together, we will come back to power," Kedar said.

Awhad, an NCP MLA from Thane, is known to be close to party supremo Sharad Pawar, while Thakur, Congress MLA from Amravati, is close to party president Rahul Gandhi. "If we can form a strategy, it will help both parties. We will meet our respective leaders and share our views. We will try and convince them about our plans," Awhad said.

Earlier, senior NCP leader Praful Patel had said that both parties would have done a better had they joined hands in Gujarat. It was in 2014 that Congress and NCP broke off their decade-long alliance, following a bitter battle over seat sharing, thereby paving the way for a BJP win in the election.

In Maharashtra, Congress has 42 MLAs and NCP had 41. The Winter Session of state legislature is currently underway in Nagpur.

"We (Congress and NCP) will fight the 2019 elections as an alliance, and we will come to power. A change is already taking place in Gujarat and will soon spread to the rest of the country, said former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.

Last week, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said, "We are separate now, but who knows, we could come together. We are anyway working together, and our ideology is the same. Gujarat results have shown that both parties coming together will give the BJP a run for its false promises."

Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said a decision will be taken if an official request is received. "Let a demand for an alliance be made first. We will reply later."

With Rahul Gandhi taking over the Congress' reins in Gujarat, talks about the party's strategy for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections have also gained momentum. On an alliance with the Congress, NCP leader Praful Patel said that the two parties should stay united, and that he was confident they could together win in 2019.

"Congress can't fight the BJP alone.They will have to take other parties along if they have to defeat BJP and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi," Maharashtra NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told Firstpost.

"For Congress, there is no option but to cobble up alliances with other Opposition parties. They should take the lead in this. Being the largest Opposition party, it should be Congress' responsibility. Our (NCP's) desire is that the Opposition should be united when we to take on the BJP," said NCP state president Sunil Tatkare.

Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, NCP's Dhananjay Munde agreed that there are talks taking place between NCP and Congress. "Party workers from both parties are talking about the possibility of an alliance before the election. Top leaders of both parties are aware of such expectations. But it will take some time to decide on an alliance," he said.

Moreover, he added, "It is clear that BJP and Shiv Sena are not very comfortable with each other. The way BJP is treating the Sena, I don't think they will contest together. But NCP and Congress are likely to contest both general and Assembly elections together," he added.

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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2017 07:00:00 IST