The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), following a green signal by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, opened their seat sharing talks on Tuesday with just three days left for the start of filing of nominations for the 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra. Nominations close on September 25.
On the discussion table are the number and nature of seats to be contested by the two allies.
The Congress wants to contest around 179 seats this time--up 15 from its 2004 quota of 164 (excluding two given to the Republican Party of India).
It wants the NCP to prune its share from 124 to 109 this time. On the other hand, the NCP offered to contest 119 seats. Sources said the party would settle for around 115 seats.
Senior leaders from both parties held parleys at the chief minister’s official residence, Varsha, late on Tuesday evening. The talks, which ended around 11.30 pm, remained inconclusive.
The go-ahead to the two sides to start talks in Mumbai came after Congress’ Maharashtra in-charge A.K. Antony conferred with Gandhi on Monday and followed it up with detailed discussions with Maharashtra leaders on Tuesday.
“Nothing is finalised,” Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief minister and chairman of the election management committee said earlier on Tuesday. He was reacting to queries whether the start of a dialogue by the two parties meant that they would jointly contest the assembly polls.
Besides Deshmukh, others who attended the meeting with Antony included Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, election campaign committee head Sushilkumar Shinde, regional Congress committee chief Manikrao Thakre, Mumbai unit chief Kripashankar Singh and senior leader Narayan Rane.
The leaders will also hold consultations in Mumbai with NCP leaders Union Minister Praful Patel, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, state NCP chief R.R. Patil, senior Maharashtra minister Ajit Pawar and Mumbai NCP chief Sachin Ahir.
“Leaders of both Congress and NCP will meet in Mumbai tonight on the seat sharing issue,’’ said Deshmukh after the meeting at Antony’s residence in Delhi.