The ruling Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra displaced the Sena-BJP alliance from the media centre stage on Saturday exposing a divided house much like the opposition ahead of the October 15 state election.
The Congress offered Sharad Pawar’s party 124 seats to contest but the NCP rejected the proposal, demanding half of the assembly’s 288 constituencies.
“The election process has already begun and time is running out. At best, we can wait another day for the Congress to respond,” said NCP’s Praful Patel, hinting that otherwise his party may go it alone.
His remarks came as the process of candidates filing nominations kicked off after the issuance of the election notification with September 27 as the deadline.
During the 2009 Maharashtra assembly elections, the Congress contested 174 seats and the NCP 114.
But equations have changed, said NCP leaders, after the Congress suffered a crushing defeat in this year’s Lok Sabha polls at the hands of the BJP, failing to muster enough numbers to even get the primary opposition party’s role.
The coalition – in power for 15 years in Maharashtra – was decimated in the state by the BJP-Shiv Sena-led Mahayuti or grand alliance, as the Congress got just two parliamentary seats and the NCP four.
The Congress remained firm as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, state party chief Manikrao Thakre and general secretary in-charge Mohan Prakash told party president Sonia Gandhi there should be no softening on the seat- sharing issue.
“There’s no need for change in the 2009 formula. We have almost finalised our candidates for 174 seats and if need be candidates for the remaining 114 seats will also be decided,” Thakre said.
Some senior leaders from both sides, however, said back-channel talks were on and there was room for bargaining.
“Our performance over the years has improved and it has been much better than that of the Congress in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Negotiations are possible only if the Congress resumes talks,” Patel said.