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Congress says it will form government in Maharashtra

Maharashtra's ruling Congress party said today that it was confident of retaining power, with early projections indicating it could touch the half-way mark in the 288-member assembly. Shiv Sena-BJP combine virtually concedes defeat

india Updated: Oct 22, 2009 11:52 IST

Maharashtra's ruling Congress party said on Thursday that it was confident of retaining power, with early projections indicating it could touch the half-way mark in the 288-member assembly.

Election officials said the Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were in the lead in 126 constituencies while the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were ahead in 99 constituencies.

Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) put up an impressive show in cosmopolitan Mumbai, weaning away traditional Shiv Sena votes.

The MNS contested 125 seats across Maharashtra. The party's heavyweight Bala Nandgaonkar was leading in Sewri in central Mumbai while Waman Mhatre could win in Thane district.

Congress Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told journalists that he was "quite hopeful" of forming a Congress-NCP government even as victory celebrations erupted outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi's house in New Delhi.

Chavan, who took over as chief minister following the Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, said he was sure the Congress would be the single largest party in the state.

Political analysts said the Congress-NCP alliance could end up with 141 seats in the Maharashtra assembly. Independents, rebels from major parties and smaller groups could corner over 40 seats.

Congress stalwarts were doing well across Maharashtra, and the Congress was also doing much better than the NCP, election officials said.

Among those leading were Ashok Chavan and Congress veteran Narayan Rane, Praniti Shinde and Amit Deshmukh, daughter and son of former chief ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh respectively, NCP's Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal as well as Jayant Patil.

BJP leader Smriti Irani admitted that things were not looking rosy for her party, which fared poorly in Maharashtra.

"We are going through challenging times," she said. But she added that "there are many reasons to rethink" about the BJP's election strategies in Maharashtra.