Just days after sending apparently reconciliatory signals to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar by appointing the “usually accommodating” Sushilkumar Shinde as Assembly poll campaign committee chief, the Congress appointed “hardliner” Vilasrao Deshmukh as head of its election management committee (EMC) on Friday.
The same day, however, both parties which have been adopting a hard stance on a pre-poll alliance began reducing their demand for seats, indicating that they will indeed reach an agreement in a few days’ time.
Deshmukh has been demanding that the Congress go it alone in the October 13 polls and has called for the NCP’s merger with the Congress.
His appointment also came on a day the “deadline” set by NCP for the Congress to initiate formal talks for an alliance ended. Though NCP wants the 2004 seat-sharing formula — 166 for Congress, 122 for itself — to continue, the Congress wants 173 seats. Behind closed doors, though, both parties have started preparing lists of “winnable” seats rather than all 288 constituencies.