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|October 8, 1999||
Pawar disappointed with NCP's performance in Maharashtra
The Nationalist Congress Party president, Sharad Pawar, today expressed dissappointment over his party's performance in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra, but stressed that he would try his best to provide an alternative to the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government.
Analysing the performance of his party, which has bagged 56 seats in the 288-member legislative assembly and six Lok Sabha seats out of the total 48, Pawar told reporters in Bombay that his three-month-old party did not have enough time to build a base of its own in the state. ''We will now concentrate on building an organisation till the last village,'' he said.
The Maratha chieftain endorsed his state unit chief Chhagan Bhujbal's view that both the Congress and the NCP should keep their options open on a possible alliance to prevent the Sena-BJP combine from retaining power. ''However, there has been no positive response from the Congress. The NCP on its own will not approach the Congress. We would prefer to sit in the opposition,'' he maintained.
To a question whether he was willing to drop his opposition to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi's prime ministerial ambitions if the Congress agreed for a tie-up in the state, he said there was no question of doing that. ''She is not heading the party in Maharashtra. At the Centre too, the Congress is not in a position to form a government. If this had happened, our line of approach would have been different,'' he said, and added that the statements of some Congress leaders that the NCP MLAs would switch over to the Congress could create obstacles in formation of a viable alternative.
Replying to a question, Pawar said the NCP was in no way responsible for the fractured verdict that this election has thrown up and instead put the blame on the Congress for dividing the secular vote.
When asked whether the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins was the cause of the poor performance of the Congress in Lok Sabha elections, Pawar said that it was an internal matter of the party and he would not like to comment.
On whether he would join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance if invited, he said it was a hypothetical question. ''Anyway, they have secured a simple majority and now it is their responsibility to revive the economy and strenghthen secularism in the country and ensure protection to minorities,'' he added.
Pawar is in the city to meet the newly-elected party MLAs and MPs. About 25 MLAs and three MPs were present at the residence of Bhujbal where he spoke to reporters. Prominent among them included former home minister, Padamsinh Patil, Abhaysinhraje Bhosale, former minister of state for education Anil Desmukh and former minister Digvijay Khanvilkar.
According to party sources, Pawar was leaving for Delhi tonight and would return tomorrow for consultations with party colleagues.
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