Vilasrao Wants Cong to Go it Alone in Assembly Polls in Maharashtra

Following arrest of senior NCP leader and Osmanabad MP Padamsinh Patil in a murder case, the Congress-NCP ties seem to have received a jolt, with government trying hard to convince it has no role in the arrest.
The government faced difficulty to assert that it had nothing to do with CBI arresting Patil and accusing him of a conspiracy to kill his cousin-turned-foe Pawan Nimbalkar and said that fresh information had been provided by the Maharashtra police itself. A senior minister also claimed that CBI did not receive any “green signal” from PMO in the matter.

The arrest of two persons involved in the contract killing, their statements detailing visits to Latur and then to UP to hire two gunmen and the ruse of using a land deal to lure Patil to a bloody rendezvous would be thoroughly investigated. At least one of the accused Parasmal Jain said Rs 30 lakh had been paid as supari to bump off Nimbalkar by Patil after the two fell out and became bitter political rivals.

Though government is ruling out a role, the Congress, according to some stories doing the rounds, sees the arrest of Patil as another opportunity to weaken Pawar ahead of assembly polls later this year.

Some Congress leaders like former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh have even opined that the party should “go it alone” in Maharashtra as it had in UP and Bihar and it seems likey that the party was preparing to drive a hard bargain with Pawar. However, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has refused to comment on Deshmukh’s remarks.

The CBI action against Patil is seen to weaken NCP as Pawar had staked a lot on claiming the Osmanabad seat for his associate. With NCP ending up with one seat less than it did in 2004, Congress leaders like Prithviraj Chavan have raised the question over the rationale for the regional outfit, suggesting it should merge with Congress. The decision of senior NCP leader P A Sangma to apologise to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has also been seen as setback for Pawar.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gently suggested to Sangma that he should think of being in the “mainstream”, Congress is hoping that some of NCP’s internal contradictions will also add to the pressure on Pawar. It is felt that with Supriya Sule being clearly designated to succeed Pawar, other second rung leaders are not so enthused with the NCP project.

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