The alliance between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party is hinging on a final call on 16 or 17 seats, according to Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Manikrao Thakre.

After holding another round of talks, Mr. Thakre told The Hindu on Thursday that further discussions would be held with the party high command on Friday before finalising the seat-sharing. While there was no real dispute on these seats, there were some issues which had to be sorted out at the highest level.

The MPCC chief said discussions for all the 288 seats were completed and the alliance would be announced shortly. State Congress leaders would go to New Delhi on Friday for a meeting of the party’s screening committee, but the feeling after the talks on Tuesday night was not very positive, according to party sources.

Seats in Mumbai

Mumbai Congress president Kripa Shankar Singh said there was a specific demand for five to seven seats from the NCP in the city but otherwise there was some consensus on nearly 260 of the 288 seats.

While the Congress claims there is some agreement on the figure of 114 for the NCP and 174 for itself, the NCP does not agree to this. NCP spokesman Madan Bafna told journalists that the numbers were not yet finalised and with NCP president Sharad Pawar in Mumbai from Thursday night, there would be more discussions within the party. It would take some time to iron out all the problems, he said.

Complications

However, sources said the NCP stand was posing complications during the talks and some 12 to 15 seats were contentious mainly in Mumbai and Marathwada. For instance, the Kalina seat in Mumbai, which was clearly a Congress seat after delimitation, was being claimed by the NCP. The NCP was keen on this seat to accommodate a Minister whose constituency had become reserved.

The NCP was keen on the alliance being announced first and then sorting out the difficulties but the Congress is not keen on this after the experience in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress is also eyeing three Ministries, which it allotted to the NCP in lieu of the Chief Minister post. It is also apprehensive of the formula of sharing the Chief Minister post for two and a half years each as proposed by the NCP some time ago. The party feels unless all these issues are sorted out, it will be difficult for the alliance to proceed unhindered.

Leaders like Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh have been vocal about the Congress going it alone in the Lok Sabha elections itself. Even for the Assembly elections, he has been saying that the party should contest all seats. The Congress feels it has already given up a lot for the NCP and the NCP should accommodate some of its wishes instead of being stubborn about certain seats.