NCP Bargains Hard with Cong for Ministerial Berths

Though the Congress-NCP combine has gained a majority in Maharashtra but sharing of ministerial berth still remains a ticklish thing to settle.

With 20 MLAs in its kitty than the NCP, the Congress wants a 60-40 sharing of cabinet berths, while the NCP insists on a 50-50 sharing and seems in no mood to give in. Its warning to the Congress is loud and clear – share equally or we stay out of the government.

Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that now it was upto Congress to decide and that the NCP was willing to give the Congress its letter and support it from outside.

Consequently, as differences widen, senior Congress leaders gathered in New Delhi to respond to an increasingly aggressive junior partner.

The NCP quickly reminded the Congress of its 1999 formula, but the Congress clearly seems in no haste.

In 2004, the Congress gave the NCP more portfolios in exchange for keeping the Chief Minister’s post, so the NCP got 24 and the Congress got 18.

This time the Congress says that they want to reverse it – 18 to the NCP and 24 to the Congress. But the NCP wants to divide the portfolios 50-50, like they did in 1999, when they got 20, and the Congress got 22.

But more than the numbers, the real fight is over key portfolios. The NCP says that they want to keep the portfolios of Home, Finance and PWD, since they stay with the Deputy Chief Minister. The Congress wants Home and Finance this time. Also, they may want other NCP portfolios like Power.

If both parties stick their ground, the final decision may well land up with the high command of both parties.

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