SEAT-SHARING negotiations between Congress and ally NCP for the Assembly polls kicked off on Tuesday. In the first round of negotiations, both parties reportedly flexed their muscle over the number of seats to be contested in the polls.
Just as the negotiators from the NCP’s camp cited the recent Lok Sabha poll result to push for a proportionate division of seats between the two sides, the Congress leaders argued that the seat-sharing formula should be based on the 2014 Assembly poll result where it had come up on top.
Both parties had contested the 2014 polls independently. While the Congress had secured 42 out of the 288 seats in that election, the NCP had won 41.
“The 2019 election results were an aberration. Since the relative strength of the parties was discovered in 2014 when all the four major parties had contested the polls independently, we feel that the 2014 state polls should be the basis of seat-sharing talks,” said a senior Congress leader involved in Tuesday’s negotiations.
But the NCP state leadership has stressed that the recent Lok Sabha polls, where the Congress had won just one seat and the NCP four, should also be considered to justify a demand for a proportionate distribution of seats.
Negotiators from both sides, meanwhile, agreed that barring a few exceptions, the seats won by either side in the 2014 state polls should remain with them.
“Seat-sharing talks with other like-minded parties will commence from Wednesday,” said a senior NCP leader.
NCP state president Jayant Patil said that the deliberations on the inclusion of the Raj Thackeray-led MNS in the alliance were also held. But sources said that opinion over the issue is divided in both the camps.
“A section of leaders from both sides feel that if the MNS joins the alliance, their voter base was more likely to shift their loyalties to Sena. They feel that the alliance would benefit if the MNS contests on its own. But there is another section that has highlighted how there are seats where Congress and NCP candidates’ collective vote tally in the last state polls had made up for less than 10 per cent of the total votes in the segments, with many of them being Marathi heartland where Raj Thackeray’s party continues to hold greater clout,” said a Congress leader.
While the Congress and NCP leaders had labelled Prakash Ambedkar and Asaduddin Owaisi spearheaded Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) as BJP’s B-team during the Lok Sabha polls, it was also decided to initiate a dialogue with the VBA.
In the Lok Sabha polls, VBA had led to downfall of the alliance candidates in several constituencies.
Following the talks on Tuesday, state Congress president Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat said, “Our aim is to ensure that the next chief minister is from the alliance. No seat sharing formula was discussed today. Winnability of the candidates will hold the key. Decisions on who else to include in the alliance and which seats to leave from them will soon be taken.”