While the seat-sharing talks between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is hanging by a thread, the Congress has to deal with the division within its own party over fighting the February 16 Mumbai civic polls.
On Friday, Congress MP Gurudas Kamat wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi questioning the need for an alliance with the NCP and the number of seats the party was demanding. Mr. Kamat warned of rebellion if Congress' strong wards were given to the NCP.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan admitted that the rift between Mr. Kamat and the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) Kripa Shankar Singh had to be dealt with.
Mr. Kamat's letter at a time when negotiations are so precariously poised has caused much consternation and on Saturday, he again issued a statement.
“There are many interpretations on my letter to Ms. Gandhi sent on yesterday [Friday] on intra-party matters. I would not like to comment on this issue and the contents of the letter,” Mr. Kamat said.
Mr. Kamat has requested Mr. Singh to convene a meeting of the MRCC Executive to discuss in detail the proposed alliance by inviting all MPs, MLAs, Ministers from Mumbai, all corporators, and the Mumbai Congress office-bearers, to seek their opinion on the subject and to clear all misunderstandings inside and outside the party.
He said there was no doubt that an alliance of secular parties was important but unjustifiable demands could not be accommodated, at the cost of self respect.
However, the Congress and the Chief Minister are keen on an alliance with the NCP especially in Mumbai. The NCP is demanding 65 of the 227 seats, and some in the Congress feel this is too high.
Under pressure, the number of seats offered to NCP fell to 30-odd seats, in a meeting two days ago. The NCP had won 14 seats in the 2006 civic polls, of the 227 seats in the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation and the Congress won 77.
Not happy with the NCP demand, the Congress pointed out that in 2006 the NCP won 14 seats and came second in another 20 seats.
However, bolstered by its top-ranking performance in the overall seats tally in the recent municipal council elections, the NCP is staking a claim for more seats. While Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is keen on an alliance in Mumbai, it is clear he wants to consolidate his party position ahead of the Assembly polls in 2014.