Pune: In an apparent hard posturing over seat adjustment with NCP for the forthcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra, the Congress on Thursday said that the 15-year-old alliance will continue only if a decision on the issue is taken without compromising its "self-respect".
Chief Minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan asserted the seat-sharing with the Sharad Pawar-led outfit will have to be "honourable" for his party, the senior partner in the alliance that is in power in Maharashtra since 1999.
Referring to ongoing parleys with NCP leaders who are insisting on contesting 144 seats out of the total 288, a demand opposed by Congress, Chavan said, "The alliance will continue only if an honourable agreement on seat sharing is reached and not otherwise. There will not be any compromise on the party's self-respect".
Chavan, addressing Congress workers from western Maharashtra, said seat sharing talks with NCP were taking place under the guidance of AICC General Secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash.
"We are not bothered whether BJP and Shiv Sena fight elections together or part ways," he said. Later talking to reporters, the Chief Minister said "no agreement can be an one-sided affair", and hoped a satisfactory solution to the seat sharing will be reached.
Earlier, MPCC President Manikrao Thakre also asserted that Congress will not agree to leaving 144 seats for NCP under any circumstances. "We will never agree to giving 144 seats for NCP to contest. During our talks, NCP leaders put their claim to 144 seats, saying their strength in the state had increased.
"We do not accept this. Congress workers should keep themselves ready to contest all 288 seats (if no agreement is reached with NCP)," Thakre said.
Thakre said that the first list of Congress candidates will be out by August 7 and remaining names too will be released by August 10-12. In 2009, Congress contested 174 seats and NCP fielded nominees on 114 Assembly segments. In the just concluded Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, which has 48 seats, NCP bagged four, while Congress won just two.
Thakre said BJP won the Lok Sabha elections on "false promises" and criticised the state leadership of the saffron outfit for not taking up scarcity issue and farmer-related problems in Maharashtra with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Mumbai early this week.
Former Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the state government should expedite decision-making in respect of public welfare projects before the poll code comes into force. Most of the speakers at the meeting urged the party leadership to fight the elections independently in view of "disharmony" caused by "uncooperative" attitude of NCP which they claimed was growing using the strength of Congress.
In a brief interaction with reporters after the conclave, Chavan, when asked about his sulking Cabinet colleague Narayan Rane, said, "He has raised some issues which party high command can consider."
On the Shiv Sena MPs' "chapati" episode in Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi, he said it was a blot on the cultural traditions of Maharashtra. Chavan, however, admitted there were issues with the quality of food being served at the Sadan and therefore Railway catering was provided as an alternative arrangement.
Asked whether an inquiry will be conducted in the alleged superstitious methods used by former Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol during investigation of the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, he said, "I am getting information in the matter".
Those who attended the meet included Prakash, state Ministers Patangrao Kadam, Harshavardhan Patil and Maharashtra Youth Congress President Vishwajeet Kadam.