After keeping the NCP guessing until now, the Congress on Monday gave the first faint sign of a possible seat sharing pact with Sharad Pawar’s party for the October 13 Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
“Discussions are continuing on positive lines,’’ said Janardan Dwivedi, party general secretary even as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi avoided any reference to the decade-long alliance with the NCP during her visit to Mumbai on Monday.
“Talks can happen in the next couple of days,’’ said a leader, who did not want to be named.
Until now, the Congress has been maintaining — without coming on record — that informal talks have been on with the NCP on the number and nature of seats. But till formal negotiations take place, Congress leaders are keeping their fingers crossed. “Until there is no announcement, there is a question mark over it,” said spokesman Abhishek Singhvi. Another leader spoke of an “80 per cent chance of a pact’’.
But some hard bargaining is on the anvil. Arguing that delimitation has changed the complexion of constituencies, the Congress wants to contest at least 179 seats — or 15 more than the 164 (excluding the two that were given to the Republican Party) it did in 2004.
The NCP is ready to give up its claim on four or five seats out of the 124 seats it contested last time but is not ready to come down to 109 which the Congress is pressurising for.
Besides increasing its share of seats, the Congress also wants to increase its presence in western Maharashtra, which is considered Pawar’s stronghold.