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Chavan's final offer: 58 seats. NCP takes it

After intense deliberations and negotiations that ran well over two hours on Tuesday night, the two parties finally resolve to fight the BMC elections on February 16 jointly

After days of irresolute deliberations that seemed to be dragging on indefinitely, leaders of the Congress and the NCP finally got a good night's sleep on Tuesday. It took them two-and-a-half hours of concentrated deliberation before arriving at the decision to forge an alliance for the BMC elections scheduled for February 16.
Talks began at 8.30 pm and around 10.40 pm Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, along with prominent NCP leaders Madhukar Pichad and Chhagan Bhujbal, jubilantly announced the Congress-NCP coalition.

Though two important persons were missing from the scene but it has been learnt that they made their stand clear to their leaders, and it was in favour of the alliance. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was, at the outset, pushing for a formidable front to take on the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the BMC. And Industries Minister Narayan Rane is also believed to have conveyed his views to the CM in favour of joining forces, a party leader said. City district guardian minister Jayant Patil and Mumbai NCP chief Narendra Verma were also engaged in finalising the seat-sharing pact.


Dealmaker: The credit for the pact goes to CM Prithviraj Chavan, who
even after ex-Mumbai Congress chief Gurudas Kamat's letter of caution,
made a trip to the Capital to persuade the party high command of the
merit of an alliance with the NCP. File pic 


The credit for the pact goes to Chavan, who even after ex-Mumbai Congress chief Gurudas Kamat's letter asking him to go it alone, made a trip to the Capital to coax and convince the party high command of the merit of an alliance. Remarkably, the CM's predecessors had left it mostly up to the party's city units whether to go with the NCP or not. It was only in 1992 that the Congress with the help of Ramdas Athawale-led RPI defeated the Sena-BJP alliance.

During the 1997 elections, Sena-BJP returned to BMC when their government was in power. During 2002 and 2007 elections, a Congress-NCP alliance for BMC polls did not materialise due to apparent reasons and differences among party leaders. 

Sources from Congress-NCP say the high-pitched deliberations reeled out a tug-of-war for every seat. Initially, the NCP was adamant with its demand for 65 seats. The Congress was equally unyielding, keeping in mind the resentment among its cadres for offering as many seats.

Around 10 pm, Chavan, Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre and Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh held a cloistered meeting to take a final call on the issue. By now, the NCP had reduced its demand to 62. Bargaining was on for every seat. After the Congress trio's discussion, 55 seats were offered. NCP was not happy. The talks reached a breaking point.

It was argued that any breakdown of talks would send the wrong signal to party cadres and it would get all the more difficult to wrest the civic body from the Sena-BJP combine. 

Yet another brief meeting took place between the Congress leaders. It was decided to offer 58 seats, sources said. Around 10.30 pm, the offer turned palatable to the NCP which nodded in favour of the formula. And the deal was sealed.

Incidentally, the negotiators did not even break for dinner or a snack during the intense talks.

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