In a significant political development, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar announced on Tuesday that his party would contest the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur.
Stating that the party will join hands with the Samajwadi Party-led front coming up in Uttar Pradesh, Pawar said that he would attend a meeting convened next week to discuss and finalise alliances and poll strategies for the northern state, which will go to the polls in seven phases between February 10 and March 7.
"Of the five states going to the polls, we shall be contesting in three states. We plan to work out alliances with like-minded parties," Pawar told mediapersons here.
While the NCP would be joining the SP-led alliance in Uttar Pradesh, in Manipur, the party is cobbling up an understanding with the Congress, with which it shares power in Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
"We are in talks with the Congress and the Trinamool Congress in Goa," Pawar added while disclosing NCP's programme to contest in three of the five states going to the polls in February-March, barring in Punjab and Uttarakhand.
Elaborating on Uttar Pradesh, the 81-year-old leader said that "the stage is set for a change" from the current rule by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"The masses want 'parivartan', and UP is all set for a change (of power). People there are not happy with the BJP's communal style of politics. Polarisation on communal lines is being done in UP ahead of the elections, and the voters will give a befitting reply to this," Pawar said.
Referring to the abrupt exit of Uttar Pradesh Cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya, who resigned from his office on Tuesday with sources claiming that he is likely to join the Samajwadi Party soon, Pawar said that "this is just the beginning" and the BJP will get many more such jolts in the run-up to the elections.
Hoping that the Samajwadi Party-led alliance will sweep to power in the ensuing elections, Pawar hinted that at least a dozen more MLAs from various other political parties in Uttar Pradesh are likely to walk over to Samajwadi Party soon.
In Manipur, where the NCP has four legislators, it will be a tie-up with the Congress to contest five seats, while negotiations are underway with Shiv Sena-Congress to repeat Maharashtra's MVA experiment in Goa and ensure BJP's defeat.
For Goa, NCP MP Praful Patel, Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Goa Congress leaders are negotiating to hammer out an alliance on the lines of MVA.
Pawar declared that he would attend a meeting convened by SP President Akhilesh Yadav to discuss the election strategy, saying that the voters will not support BJP's plans to contest elections on communal lines.
The NCP supremo also slammed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's recent '80:20' statement (80 per cent people are with BJP, 20 per cent are against), saying that it was not befitting of him (Adityanath) to seek to divide the people on religious lines and hurting the sentiments of the minority community there.
Speaking of Punjab, Pawar surmised that the incumbent Congress will return to power, but with the recent turn of events, even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has become a contender.
On the much-talked about grand opposition alliance at the national level, Pawar reiterated that the Congress must be an integral part of any such opposition front against the BJP.
Nevertheless, he said it is up to the Congress to decide whether to go alone or join hands with like-minded parties in the coming Assembly elections.
MVA ally in Maharashtra, the Congress is yet to react to Pawar's assertions on the proposed NCP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh, alliance with Congress in Manipur, and talks with both Congress and Trinamool in Goa.
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