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United and ready for big fight

mumbai Updated: Sep 23, 2009 01:15 IST

Ending a fortnight-long speculation on their pre-poll alliance, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) announced that they will contest the October 13 Maharashtra Assembly elections as allies.

The Congress will contest from 174 out of the total 288 seats while the NCP will contest from 114. The announcement came at a late evening press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The leaders blamed the delay on delimitation. “We had to start afresh in view of delimitation,” said senior NCP leader Praful Patel.

State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre Patel said the union would help the decade-old partnership regain power for the third successive term.

The parties forged a pre-poll alliance in 2004. They contested separately in 1999 and came together to form the first Democratic Front government that ended the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party’s maiden rule.

Thakre and Patel said the alliance would try to accommodate like-minded secular parties in its fold.

“The Republican Party of India (RPI) may join us. We want them to take a decision by tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Patel. They said the disputes over all seats were resolved amicably.

Patel denied that the NCP getting a lesser number of seats than in 2004 meant that the party was weakening. “We got the seats where we can win and the Congress will contest where it has better prospects.” The NCP had contested 124 seats in 2004.

Both parties are likely to declare their candidates by Wednesday although some of their prominent leaders filed nominations on Tuesday although Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane (Kudal, Sindhudurg) and Home Minister Jayant Patil (Islampur, Western Maharashtra) filed their nominations on Tuesday.

The leaders chose to avoid direct comments when asked whether President Pratibha Patil's son Rajendra would get a party ticket. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who also addressed journalists, said the Congress hasn’t taken any decision based on ‘who’s who’. “It’s a democratic country and everyone has the right to contest elections,” Chavan said. “You will get to know our official candidates by tomorrow.”

The parties will declare a joint manifesto and also hold their first joint rally later this week.