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Sonia, Pawar chalk out seat-sharing pact for Maharashtra assembly elections

New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar met Congress’s interim president, Sonia Gandhi, on Tuesday to discuss the seat-sharing arrangement between the two parties for the assembly elections in Maharashtra that are due in October-November this year.

A Congress functionary said state leaders of the two parties were so far engaged in the seat-sharing talks and the two leaders wanted to send a “strong signal” that the alliance is firm and going strong in Maharashtra.

In Mumbai, Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said the Congress and NCP will fight about 123-125 seats each and leave 41 for smaller allies. He added that seats may be swapped based on consensus between the two parties.

“Talks are on with the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi [of Prakash Ambedkar], Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, and Samajwadi Party. If alliance talks work out, 41 seats would be allocated to smaller allies,” Chavan said hours after Gandhi’s meeting with Pawar.

It was their first meeting after Gandhi took over as Congress’s interim president on August 10.

The Congress functionary cited above said Congress has so far finalised 116 of total 288 seats it is going to contest. The NCP has zeroed in on 105.

The Congress and NCP contested the 2014 assembly polls separately after sharing power for 15 years in the state. The two parties had parted ways following disagreements over seat-sharing.

The Congress bagged 42 seats while the NCP 41 in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the single largest party with 122 seats and the Shiv Sena, which also fought separately, secured 63.

In the April-May Lok Sabha elections, the Congress managed to get just one seat and NCP four. The BJP won 23 seats and its alliance partner, Shiv Sena, 18.

The functionary said the seat-sharing agreement could be announced once the two parties resolve the “sticky issues” over the remaining seats.

“There are some seats both the Congress and the NCP have staked claim to. So, we are trying to sort out the issues over those seats,” the functionary added.

The NCP initially demanded 50% or 144 seats, which the Congress agreed to but with the condition that Pawar’s party will accommodate other smaller parties under its quota.

The Congress is keen to finalise its candidates by the third week of September and has asked the NCP to firm up the alliances with the smaller parties immediately to enable them to launch the campaign.

In Mumbai, Chavan said the VBA’s demand that the Congress sever its ties with the NCP was unacceptable.

The VBA last month offered 144 seats to the Congress and asked it to accommodate the NCP within its share. The Congress promptly rejected the offer.

On Monday, Prakash Ambedkar announced the VBA will not have any tie-up with the Congress. He said the Congress has not responded to his repeated pleas of firming up the alliance.

Both the Congress and the NCP are keen to have a tie-up with the VBA as it played spoilsport in some constituencies that helped the BJP-Shiv Sena in April-May national polls.

The NCP is also in talks with the Maharashtra Navniram Sena (MNS) though it is not yet clear if Raj Thackeray is keen to fight the assembly elections.

The MNS did not contest the Lok Sabha elections, but Thackeray campaigned against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah across Maharashtra.

Thackeray has now launched a campaign against the electronic voting machines and asked the Election Commission to hold the upcoming assembly polls through ballot papers. He met Sonia Gandhi on July 8.

First Published:
Sep 11, 2019 00:01 IST

Source: HindustanTimes