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WHILE PARTIES YET TO DECIDE ON SEATS, CONG MAY CEDE JUST 114-115

Initial posturing apart, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party finally seems to have blinked and acceded to the Congress’ demand for more share of seats. After a marathon discussion, which went on for more than two days, the Congress and NCP are learnt to have decided to continue their alliance for the assembly elections in Maharastra, scheduled for October 13. Tough negotiations were on between the two partners Congress and NCP as the first round of formal talks got under way in Mumbai. Over 10 top leaders from both parties were engaged in the talks, it is learnt. Sources in the Congress said the party is willing to concede 109 to 115 seats for the NCP, which had contested 122 seats in the 2004 elections. However, the talks remained inconclusive. The commencement of talks signaled a willingness by both parties to sew up the alliance, but Congress appeared reluctant in the face of NCP’s pleas for early sealing of a pact, even at the cost of some seats for itself. Both parties held first formal talks at Varsha, Maharashtra chief minister’s official residence, for a seat-sharing formula for the assembly elections. The first meeting of Maharashtra Congress leaders was held at Congress general secretary AK Antony’s residence and was attended by chief minister Ashok Chavan, his senior colleague Narayan Rane, Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mumbai party chief Kripa Shankar Singh and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre. This meeting paved the way for the final alliance talks. Senior NCP leaders, including civil aviation minister Praful Patel, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Maharashtra NCP chief RR Patil attended the meeting in Mumbai. Many Congress leaders wanted to go it alone in the assembly polls, since the Congress had put up a spectacular show in the April-May Lok Sabha elections. The Congress contested 25 of the 48 seats in the state and won 17, while the NCP got only eight of the 21 seats it contested. Bureau report NMTV News.

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