sharad-pawarShowing willingness to give the Congress the status of bigger partner in the Democratic Front alliance in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party hinted at the possibility of settling for fewer seats than last time. NCP president Sharad Pawar told a meeting of the party’s core committee in Mumbai to prepare to contest 124 of the 288 assembly seats in the state. At the same time, he hinted at the possibility of settling for fewer seats as the Congress kept up its pressure for a larger share. The Congress is insisting on reworking the 2004 seat-sharing formula following delimitation. The party has asserted its claim to 179 seats, leaving just 109 to the NCP. In 2004, the Congress had contested 166 seats; the NCP had contested 122. Pawar said the NCP’s priority is to seal an electoral deal with the Congress to prevent a division of the “secular vote”. He showed a willingness to compromise on some crucial seats if the Congress displayed the same spirit of partnership. But the Union agriculture minister also urged party leaders to keep ‘plan B’ ready in case no deal could be struck. In that case, he said, the NCP should be prepared to contest all 288 seats. Pawar is camping in Mumbai for two days to set the ball rolling for the alliance.

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