The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will contest 22 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra in the next general election, senior leaders said here on Saturday.

Sending out a clear signal to partymen to prepare themselves for early polls, NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar reviewed and deliberated on poll strategies on the first day of the two-day meet. The NCP top brass, including all MPs, senior Ministers and heads of the party’s women and minority wings, were in attendance.

“We have yet to take a call on the candidates and constituencies from which they would be fielded. Today, we only discussed strategies and how to maximise the number of seats contested by our candidates,” State president Madhukar Pichad said at the end of the meeting, which was held here at the NCP’s Nariman Point office.

The NCP contested the same number of seats in the 2009 election, winning only eight seats.

Party workers were also urged to improve coordination with their Congress counterparts as part of the preparations, Mr. Pichad told The Hindu.

Union Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, MP Supriya Sule, State ministers R.R. Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal were present at the meeting.

The NCP, a key ally of the Congress, has sounded the bugle on an early Lok Sabha election despite the Congress’ insistence that the election would take place only as scheduled next year.

In the wake of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) withdrawing their support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, the NCP meet was a stocktaking exercise to assess the feasibility of an early Lok Sabha poll, said NCP spokesman Nawab Malik.

“While the UPA currently has the numbers in the House to run the government, one cannot say for sure when fortunes may change. So even though the polls are a good 10 months away, we do not want to leave anything to chance,” he said.