Sonia speaks to Pawar, authorises 3 senior leaders to hold talks with NCP

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday spoke to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and authorised three senior party leaders to hold further talks on the issue of government formation in Maharashtra.

As hectic deliberations continued, Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal would be leaving for Mumbai later in the day for holding discussions with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

Earlier in the morning, Sonia Gandhi again spoke to Pawar over telephone and asked her party leaders to meet Pawar in Mumbai.

“Congress President Smt.Sonia Gandhi spoke to Shri.Sharad Pawar today morning and deputed Shri.Ahamed Patel, Shri.Mallikarjun Kharge and myself for holding further discussions with Shri.Pawar,” Venugopal tweeted. “We three are going to Mumbai now and will meet Shri.Pawar at the earliest.”

Earlier in the day, Sonia Gandhi held talks with party’s core team members AK Antony and Venugopal at her residence.

Ahmed Patel also is learnt to have held telephonic conversation with Pawar over working out modalities with the NCP on government formation.

Kharge had earlier said the party leadership was in touch with Pawar and is holding further discussions with the NCP on Maharashtra government formation.

The Shiv Sena on Monday suffered a setback in its efforts to cobble up a non-BJP government in Maharashtra with the Congress at the last moment announcing its decision to hold more talks with ally NCP on supporting the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.

While Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray said two parties (Congress and NCP) have agreed “in-principle” to support the Sena-led government, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari refused additional time sought by his party to muster numbers.

Later, the NCP, which is the third largest party in the state, got an invite from the governor, asking it to express “willingness and ability to form government” by 8.30 pm on Tuesday.

With 54 MLAs, the NCP is the third largest party after the BJP (105) and the Shiv Sena (56) in the 288-member House, where the halfway mark in 145. The Congress has 44 MLAs.

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