The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday decided to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections on its own and expressed confidence it would bag the maximum number of seats in the "solo fight".
The party's decision came a day after the Congress declared its first list of 77 candidates for the first phase of the elections slated for 9 December.
"We wanted to contest in Gujarat in alliance with the Congress and had talks with them too initially, but the Congress did not seem serious and kept on delaying.
"We are already prepared to contest from all seats for the last one-and-half years. Now, we have decided to fight alone," NCP leader Praful Patel said. "We are confident that we will do even better alone and bag maximum seats in a solo fight."
Incidentally, senior party leaders from NCP, Janata Dal (United) and the Congress were closetted with Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leaders and with recently-inducted OBC community leader Alpesh Thakore in Delhi on Friday over a possible alliance ahead of the elections. Voting for the two-phase polls are scheduled for 9 and 14 December. The vote count will take place on 18 December.
"Discussion on almost all the seats is over. Since we are also talking to JD-U (faction led by Sharad Yadav) and NCP, and the fact that they have also shown interest in an alliance, so the list will be released in a day or two," AICC general secretary in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot told reporters after Congress' central election committee meeting.
"Though we have held discussions on all 182 seats, since we are forming an alliance, we may have to leave some seats. JD-U is divided into two parts. We are talking to Sharad Yadav about Chotubhai Vasava (rebel JD-U leader). "We are also taking to NCP, we will release the list when the talks are over," he added.
The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
Last Friday, the Congress' Central Election Committee (CEC) had cleared the names of 70 candidates for the first phase of Gujarat polls in the meeting that was presided over by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, sources said.
Congress party's Rajya Sabha MP, Ahmed Patel, along with some senior party leaders, held a meeting with PAAS leaders who are seeking reservation status for the Patidar community. The leader of the PAAS group, Hardik Patel, was not present, but Dinesh Bambhania, Lalit Vasoya, Manoj Panara, Kiritbhai Patel, convenors of the group, were in Delhi for the meeting.
The Other Backward Caste (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakore also attending the meeting, the sources said.
The Congress is believed to have agreed to let Alpesh Thakore have a say in candidate selection in the Thakore-dominated seats of north Gujarat and tickets for him and his father, the sources added.
Alpesh Thakore had joined the Congress after a grand show of strength in Gandhinagar last month, at which Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi welcomed him into the party.
Alpesh, with time has gained political maturity, and initially it was speculated that he will join the saffron party. But going on his word that he will do whatever his community decides, and after the decision he joined the grand old party, in a big boost for the Congress.
The PAAS group too has pledged that whatever happens irrespective of whether they support the Congress or not, they will be definitely opposing the BJP. Another community leader, Jignesh Mewani representing the Scheduled Caste community has also expressed his disapproval for the saffron party.
Updated Date: Nov 20, 2017 11:30 AM