Ruling Democratic Front partners in Maharashtra, Congress and NCP, on Monday began seat-sharing talks for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections with the latter insisting on an equal share in seats and a pre-poll alliance with 'secular' parties.
Congress, however maintained that it wants to stick to the 2004 formula of 27 seats for the grand-old party and the remaining 21 for the NCP.
Demanding an equal share, state NCP President R R Patil said the political situation in the state has undergone a lot of changes since the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
"NCP has gone from strength to strength in all the local bodies polls held since then. Besides, we also finished with the highest number of assembly seats after the Lok Sabha polls. Congress had to give us three additional ministerial berths due to our increased strength," he said.
State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said suggestions have come from both the sides and the seat sharing formula will be finalised in the next couple of rounds.
He said his party was sticking to its stand of the 2004 formula while the NCP was demanding 24 seats out of the total 48.
NCP state unit president R R Patil said today's meeting was preliminary round of talks. "We are yet to decide on which seat will go to whom. We want a sizeable representation this time. Congress is a big party and can give opportunity to its workers to contest polls all over the country," he said.
During the talks, Mumbai NCP president Sachin Ahir claimed Congress had won five seats in Mumbai because of his party's support.
"In 1999, when Congress and NCP fought separately, Congress lost all seats except Sunil Dutt's constituency of Mumbai North West," he said.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was not present at the meeting since he was away in Gadchiroli with Home Minister Jayant Patil to take stock of the situation following the Naxal attack on policemen yesterday in which 15 cops were killed.
While former Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, party campaign committee chairman Gurudas Kamat, Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh represented the Congress side, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, state NCP president R R Patil, Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar, Energy Minister Sunil Tatkare, Mumbai unit president Sachin Ahir and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel represented the NCP side.
The next round of talks will take place after discussions with the central leadership of both parties, sources said.