The Congress may go for an electoral pact with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the October polls in Maharashtra. But as it wants this on its terms, it continues to keep its ally on the tenterhooks.
The Congress reportedly wants to contest more than the 167 seats (out of 288) it did in 2004, but the NCP wants the 2004 formula maintained, making the sharing of seats a ticklish task for both parties.
In the midst of this muscle flexing, there is also a realisation that contesting separately could benefit the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.
A call on an electoral pact will have to be taken soon, as the Election Commission is expected to announce the dates any day now.
With a little over a month left for the polls, the central leadership of the two parties have started conferring with their colleagues on poll preparations.
On Thursday, in Delhi Defence Minister and Maharashtra in charge A.K. Antony held a meeting with Chief Minister A.K. Chavan and state unit chief Manikrao Thakre and some other AICC leaders deputed for party work in Maharashtra. They will also call on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
On Friday, the NCP’s top brass led by party chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, will meet in Mumbai to discuss whether it should proceed with the seat-sharing talks with the Congress or pull out of the alliance. In a bid to keep its back-up plan ready, the NCP has already sought applications from its aspiring candidates in all 288 seats.
Lately, in a bid to put pressure on the NCP, Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Prithviraj Chavan have called for its merger as the issue of Gandhi’s foreign issue, on which Pawar split the party, was no longer relevant. Some of them also want their party to “go it alone’’ in Maharashtra, as was done in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In an indication of the party’s desire for a larger share of seats, Congress leaders claim that the delimitation exercise has altered the geography, demography and chemistry of the constituencies and so the 2004 formula needs to be revisited.