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MVA's doors still open for Ambedkar-led VBA; need to avoid division of Oppn's votes: Chavan

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Mumbai, Mar 29 (PTI) Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Friday said the Maha Vikas Aghadi's doors are still open for the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) as division of opposition votes need to be avoided.

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Talking to reporters here, Chavan said the VBA had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on its own, resulting in the defeat of eight to nine Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidates.

His remarks come two days after Ambedkar announced the names of VBA's candidates from eight Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, signalling that the outfit was no longer pursuing an alliance with the MVA comprising the Shiv Sena (UBT), NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) and Congress.

MVA allies and the VBA had been involved in hectic parleys over the last few months to reach an agreement on fighting the polls together. The MVA had offered four Lok Sabha seats to the VBA which the latter declined. The opposition bloc later offered one more seat to the Ambedkar-led outfit, but that did not yield any result.

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Talking to reporters, Chavan claimed, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants division of opposition votes. The entire opposition needs to unite to defeat Modi." According to the former Maharashtra chief minister, the three allies have finalised the seat-sharing deal on 45 to 46 Lok Sabha constituencies.

"Only two-three seats are left, where we feel we are in a better position. There are genuine differences," he said, and refused to speak on whether the Congress plans friendly fights on six seats.

Chavan slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government for the Income Tax department's notice to the Congress, asking it pay a penalty of Rs 1,750 crore, alleging that the ruling party wants to ensure that the grand old party does even make any nominal expenditure towards contesting elections.

"BJP is not sure of its victory, so it is harassing the opposition parties by not allowing it to contest elections while giving clean chit to those who join them," he said.

"Our party is sure to get justice in courts, but it will be delayed as polling for the first and second phases will be over by that time," Chavan added. PTI MR NP

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