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Cong firm on retaining chief ministership

By Ehtesham Khan in New Delhi
Last updated on: October 18, 2004 22:51 IST
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The issue of who would be the next chief minister of Maharashtra remained deadlocked with the Congress refusing to give up its claim to the post on Monday. Alliance partners Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress are both claiming the post for various reasons, chief among them being the '1999 forumla'.

Party chief Sonia Gandhi met a team of Congress leaders led by Margarent Alva at her residence on Monday evening to discuss the matter. Emerging from the meeting, Alva reiterated the party's stand that the CM would be a Congressman.

The leaders who met Sonia included Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prabha Rao and Gurudas Kamat.

Alva said NCP chief Sharad Pawar's position on the 'single largest party' did not hold water because the Congress had conceded some seats to its pre-poll partners – RPI (A), CPM and Independents. Taking into account its pre-poll arrangement, Alva said, the party had 74 MLAs as against NCP's 72.

The Congress leader also said the party had no information about Pawar's reported statement on supporting the government from outside if the chief minister was not from the NCP.

Asked whether the Congress was rejecting NCP's claim, Alva said, "I am not rejecting anything." "Pawar is a senior leader who understands coalition politics and everything will be sorted out through talks."

One Congress leader said efforts were on to arrange a meeting with Pawar to follow up on the matter on Monday night. Also, sources said Pawar might use the opportunity to bargain for a better portfolio for himself at the Centre.

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Ehtesham Khan in New Delhi