Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: After weeks of hard-nosed bargaining, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Tuesday night announced their seat-sharing arrangement for the Maharashtra Assembly elections. While the Congress will contest 174 seats, the NCP will fight in the remaining 114 segments.

However, both parties did not disclose the names of seats each would contest or of the prominent candidates.

In a significant development, Pradesh Congress Committee president Manikrao Thakre and NCP leader Praful Patel reached out to the factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI), which were their allies in the past but have now parted company to join a ‘third front’. Both parties indicated a willingness to accommodate the RPI factions in their respective quotas.

The revised seat-sharing arrangement of the decade-old alliance was announced at a hurriedly organised press conference in the Congress headquarters here by Mr. Thakre, Mr. Patel, and Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

In the face of a flurry of questions on the candidature of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat, Mr. Patel said, “Please don’t drag the President’s name into this,” even as Mr. Chavan sought to set the record straight by saying she had kept herself away from the selection process.

Asked if the presence of the President’s son among the wannabes put the Congress in an embarrassing position, Mr. Chavan said: “She was not involved in the process.”

However, Congress sources maintained that Mr. Shekhawat’s candidature put the party in a spot, as it had to revisit its candidates in Amravati district. He wants to contest the Amravati seat -- now held by Minister of State for Finance Sunil Deshpande.

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