With just five days left before nominations close for the Maharashtra assembly polls, top Congress and NCP leaders will meet in Mumbai on Tuesday in a last ditch attempt to resolve the seat-sharing deadlock and salvage the 15-year-old alliance.
“A positive decision is expected in the meeting with Congress,” NCP vice-president Praful Patel tweeted late Monday. However, a senior Congress leader made it clear, “it is impossible to give NCP as many seats as they want”.
In the 288-seat strong assembly, the Congress wants to contest in no less than 164 seats and leave 124 seats for NCP whereas Sharad Pawar’s party wants to fight in 144 seats. In the 2009 poll, the Congress fielded candidates in 174 seats and NCP contested from 114 seats.
Further negotiations between the Congress and its oldest ally, who both want to fight in more seats, come even as its prime opponent, the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition, is at loggerheads over seat sharing. The state goes to polls on October 15.
A core group of the Sharad Pawar-led NCP met in Mumbai on Monday while the Congress’ apex candidates’ selection body, the Central Election Committee (CEC), sat down in New Delhi to assess their stands. Congress sources added that candidates for 124 seats were also discussed.
In a bid to add pressure on the NCP, Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry informed that the CEC held discussion on “all seats”. Meanwhile, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said there were “other options” if the alliance with the NCP didn’t work out.
NCP too made its displeasure known by saying that the Congress offer of 124 seats is unacceptable. “We too want to grow as a party and there is nothing wrong in that,” said Patel.
But by evening, both sides agreed to sit for another round of talks indicating they do not want to escalate matters further. “The CM called me. We were told that both the parties must sit together. We are going to discuss it (seat sharing) with the Congress leaders on Tuesday,” said Patel.
There are indications that an agreement will be reached between the allies in the coming days with Congress likely to concede around 130 seats, six more than offered now to the NCP.