The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday said it was open to conceding some ministries to the Congress in Maharashtra but maintained that key portfolios of Home, Finance and Public Works were non-negotiable.

Briefing journalists here even as the party awaited a formal invitation from the Congress for talks on power-sharing, NCP general secretary P.A. Sangma said the 1999 formula should be followed. In 1999, the two parties — coming together to form a post-poll alliance — divided the ministerial berths evenly between them.

Given the fact that the Congress had won more seats than the NCP this time round, Mr. Sangma said his party was open to negotiating on the number of ministerial perches that it gets but “the 1999 arrangement on portfolios will continue.” Since 1999, the three key portfolios of Home, Finance and Public Works have been with the NCP, besides the Speaker post.

As to how the NCP was confident of arriving at an acceptable power-sharing formula when the Congress was insisting on wresting the Home portfolio from it, general secretary Tariq Anwar clarified that no proposal had come from the Congress as yet. “We are still awaiting a word from the Congress and hope for formal discussions to begin.”

Mr. Sangma said he was hopeful that the Congress would reciprocate the gesture shown by the NCP in 2004 when it conceded the post of chief minister despite winning more seats. “The gesture we have shown in the past should be good enough reason for them to reciprocate on portfolios.”

Asked when the NCP would give to the Governor its letter of support to the Congress, Mr. Sangma said: “Wait till tomorrow.” And, about reports suggesting that the NCP would walk out of the alliance if the Congress insisted on taking the key portfolios, his reply was: “We have had a good understanding for the last 10 years and the coming five years will be the same.”

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi was confident that the power-sharing formula would be settled soon and said such things were not discussed through the media. Further, it was pointed out by Congress leaders that there was still time to settle matters while there was no official confirmation on whether the two parties had begun formal talks.