After their dismal performance as allies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) parted ways in Maharashtra and contested the assembly elections separately. However, the two parties have decided to sew their alliance back with a common objective -- to keep the BJP away.
Top leaders of the parties have held several rounds of discussions and even though there has been no official announcement yet, both Congress and Sharad Pawar-led NCP are likely to contest equal number of seats out of the 48 in the state. They are also reaching out to other "like-minded" parties for a grand alliance.
"Of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, both NCP and Congress may possibly contest on 20 seats each. The remaining eight seats will be allotted to others allies," NCP leader Praful Patel told reporters on Friday.
The alliance that aims to defeat the BJP and Shiv Sena, however, has no room for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
In 2014, the Congress had contested 26 seats and the NCP fought on 21. The last seat went to a smaller alliance partner. While the NCP won four seats, the Congress managed to get only two.
The two parties ended their 15-year-old alliance before the assembly polls that year, in which the Congress won 42 and NCP 41 out of the total 288 seats. The break-up translated into massive gains for the Shiv Sena and the BJP which came together to form a government.
The two parties have since maintained an understanding of sorts in local body and MLC polls in Maharashtra. For the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the NCP, which turns 20 this year, argued that since it had won more seats in 2014, the two allies should contest an equal number of seats if they were to ally again.
However, in Uttar Pradesh, which has the most number of Lok Sabha seats in the country, the Congress might have to fly solo.
Political rivals-turned-allies Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party boss Mayawati had a meeting in Delhi on Friday where they discussed the seat-sharing in UP for the national elections. Sources said that the Congress didn't feature in their formula.
The two leaders, reportedly upset with the Congress, don't seem too keen on allying with the Congress in UP, sources added.
However, senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, uncle of Akhilesh Yadav and effectively number 2 in the party, trashed the reports as "fictitious".
Meanwhile, a senior member of Rahul Gandhi's party indicated they are ready to fight alone in the state. "A coalition is not important... Our workers are ready... We have not spoken to anyone about an alliance," PL Punia, Rajya Sabha member from the Congress, said.
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