Tough negotiations between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party for the coming Assembly elections in Maharashtra [ Images ] were said to be on amidst indications NCP might settle for less than what it had contested in the previous polls.
"Discussions are continuing on positive lines," All lndiaCongress Committee general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said even as Congress President Sonia Gandhi [ Images ] skirted any reference to the 10-year-old alliance during her brief visit to Mumbai [ Images ] on Monday.
Chances of a meeting between Gandhi and NCP president Shard Pawar may be possible only on or after Wednesday when she will be back from her visit to Bengaluru [ Images ] on Tuesday.
Congress sources said that 80 per cent chances were there for continuing the alliance which could be clinched in the next few days. The next few days till Friday, considered inauspicious because of the pitru paksh, appears to be another factor hampering the taking of crucial decisions. The extent of hard bargaining, the sources said, could be gauged from the fact that each seat was being discussed thoroughly in view of the situation caused by the delimitation.
Congress is said to have staked its claim on 10 to 20 seats more than what it had contested in the last polls. In the 2004 elections, Congress had contested 166 seats, while the NCP 122. Pawar had yesterday that he does not not favour collapse of the alliance "for two to four seats", while another NCP leader Praful Patel [ Images ] had expressed readiness to contest less number of seats than in 2004.
Party sources say that Congress which had contested 164 of 288 seats in last assembly election is looking for 175 to 185 seats this time after its better performance in Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra.
At the AICC briefing in Delhi [ Images ], Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, however, kept the suspense on over the issue saying "there is no question of confirmation or denial at this stage," when asked whether the Congress-NCP alliance will materialise or not. To another query whether doubts still exist about the alliance, Singhvi added,"as long as there is no announcement, how can we definitely say about it." He also maintained "whether alliance happens or not, any decision will be taken keeping in mind the best interests of the people of Maharashtra". A party leader said that NCP which had contested 122 seats last time should come down somewhere between 103 and 115.
Nominations for the polls open on September 18 and close on September 25 and as such a decision is likely to be announced shortly over ithe fate of the alliance.