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Negotiations with NCP still on: Congress

Leaders of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party are expected to conduct another,possibly final,round of talks on Tuesday before declaring the outcome of the prolonged discussions between the two coalition partners for a seat-sharing pact for elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
January 10, 2012 12:29:19 am

Leaders of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are expected to conduct another,possibly final,round of talks on Tuesday before declaring the outcome of the prolonged discussions between the two coalition partners for a seat-sharing pact for elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

While Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan met the Congress high command in New Delhi on Monday to apprise them of the need for a pragmatic prepoll alliance based on ground realities,Congressmen in Maharashtra indicated that the party is now not offering any fixed number of seats and that negotiations with the NCP leadership continue.

An agreement could still be thrashed out,said Congress leaders,even as Sharad Pawar’s stated deadline for the Congress to make its final offer lapsed on Monday evening. While the NCP stood by its demand for a minimum of 65 seats in the 227-member BMC,the Congress has,under pressure from legislators who do not want the party to appear submissive vis-a-vis the NCP,stated that it was willing to offer the NCP 46 seats. That number is expected to be upwardly revised by 8-10 seats.

“We expect that the NCP should go by parameters of ground realities in order to deliver positive results or else it will be self-defeating,” said a senior Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee office-bearer. “The NCP is asking us to give up seats that they are not in a position to win.”

The NCP said no decision had been made to reduce the number of seats demanded in Mumbai. “The details will all be discussed in another meeting on Tuesday,” said NCP spokesperson Prakash Binsale.

Meanwhile,in neighbouring Thane,too,there was no resolution on which seats would be given to the Congress,which has demanded a couple of seats held by NCP corporators. Senior NCP legislator from Thane,Jitendra Awhad,said “50 per cent” work on establishing a united front of likeminded parties had been completed. He said the formula remained simple and that sitting corporators would get to contest from their existing seats. Congress sources,on the other hand,said talks for Thane were stuck as well with neither party backing off from its demands. Binsale said talks for Thane are continuing independently of the Mumbai impasse.

Simultaneously,three mid-level Congress leaders,all office-bearers of district Congress committees,issued a statement on Monday stating that former Union minister of state and Member of Parliament Gurudas Kamat intentionally “leaked” his letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi opposing the prepoll alliance. He did so in order to throw a spoke in the ongoing talks for a prepoll alliance and to embarrass the state party leadership,said the statement.

Signed by south district vice-president Ranjit Sonawane,north-east general secretary Madhuri Tambe and south-central secretary Ruturaj Mundargi,the statement said they have in turn now written to the Congress president. “This is the usual tactic of Kamat,” they wrote,according to the statement which said an anti-alliance group had formed within the party with the aim of scuttling the talks in order to destabilise the CM.

The statement further reiterated the argument that if Kamat believes that handing over 65 seats to the NCP would now be demoralising for Congress cadre,he should explain how he had agreed to give the same number of seats to the NCP in the run-up to the 2007 BMC elections.

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