In a clear indication of UPA partners bracing up for a hard bargain about three months ahead of Lok Sabha elections,the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday raised its stakes demanding 26 seats in Maharashtra and 15 in other states.
In the last Lok Sabha elections,the NCP had contested on 26 seats and the Congress on 22 in Maharashtra as per their seat-sharing agreement. The NCP now wants to reverse the arrangement claiming that it has grown in strength and increased its presence in the state as is evident from its performance in recent elections.
Senior NCP leader D P Tripathi said at a press conference here that the Congress should immediately embark on the exercise of seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha polls with allies based on their proportional political strengths.
He said the NCP should be given 15 seats outside Maharashtra,including one each in Goa,Assam,Manipur,Meghalaya,Lakshdweep,two in Gujarat and three to four seats each in Orissa and Bihar. He also expected some seats from the UPA in Uttar Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh,Chhattisgarh,Haryana and Delhi. Tripathi said the NCP should be invited to be a part of the UDF in Kerala.
The NCPs demand came on a day when the Samajwadi Party,which has been playing a hard ball with the Congress over seat-sharing arrangement,unilaterally released the third list of candidates. The Congress-SP seat sharing talks now look set to go down to the wires with the latter declaring its candidates on about two-thirds of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh so far.
This alliance is not possible without a friendly fight, AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pardesh Digvijay Singh told reporters. Earlier in the day,PCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi had held discussions with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the options available to the party in the wake of the SPs unilateral announcement of candidates.