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|October 7, 1999||
Senior leaders discuss Maharashtra situation with Sonia
Political equations in Maharashtra are changing rapidly with all the four major parties in the state - the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party -- falling well short of the half-way mark.
The NCP and the Congress have a realistic chance of forming the government, provided they sink their differences.
Though the NCP has made polite noises about the need to keep the Sena-BJP combine out of Mantralaya in Bombay, the Congress leaders have stiffened their stance saying that no negotiations were possible with Sharad Pawar around.
Today, senior Congress leaders, including Manmohan Singh, called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi this evening to discuss the Maharashtra situation. Sources said that the delegation told Sonia that Sharad Pawar should be asked to apologise for his remarks against her foreign origins before any talks to join hands at the state level could be initiated.
As per the latest results, the Congress has emerged as the single largest party in the state and is leading in 76 seats (including the seats it has won), followed by the Shiv Sena 68, the BJP 58, the NCP 56 and others 20.
NCP state unit president Chhagan Bhujbal has thrown the ball in the court of the Congress by offering the possibility of both the parties joining hands with a view to forming the government. In an interview to Doordarshan, Bhujbal said that with mutual understanding they could thwart the BJP-Sena alliance's efforts to form the next government.
The Congress, which blames Sharad Pawar for virtually handing down a victory to the Sena-BJP alliance, is not willing to initiate talks.
Reacting to Bhujbal's proposal, senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde in an interview to Doordarshan said the decision of an alliance with the NCP could be taken only at the national level.
He also questioned the NCP's stand on Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins which, he said, had hurt the sentiments of the Congress leadership. He said the NCP must first express regret over its anti-Sonia statements.
When Bhujbal was asked who would be the chief minister if the two parties did join hands, he said the Congress has won more seats and it would be its prerogative.
Meanwhile, architects of the saffron alliance, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and senior BJP leader Pramod Mahajan will meet shortly in Bombay to discuss various issues related to the government formation.
Mahajan is likely to arrive here tomorrow and meet the Sena chief, a senior party office-bearer said.
He also said that the Sena-BJP was well poised to form the next government in the state.
Till now results for 43 Lok Sabha seats have been declared in the state. Of these, the Shiv Sena has won 14, the BJP 11, the Congress eight, the NCP six, the BBM one, the JD-S one, the PWP one, and Independents 1. Of the remaining five seats, the Congress is leading in three, the Shiv Sena and the BJP one each.
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