"Even the Congress chose to react guardedly to the NCP's demands and its top city and state leaders said that the issues must be discussed and decisions must be taken after considering all aspects."
Mumbai, July 4 - In the run up to the Maharashtra Assembly elections to be held this year, all major political parties in the state have started flexing their muscles over the number of seats they want to contest and conquer.

After some state Bharatiya Janata Party leaders recently declared that they should be prepared to contest all the 288 assembly seats, shocking its main ally Shiv Sena, even the Nationalist Congress Party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar made a similar statement, virtually stunning its partner Congress, Friday.

Both the two major coalitions - BJP-SS and Congress-NCP - are now daggers drawn even before the seat-sharing process begins, indicating a sense of urgency to emerge trumps in the elections.

Traditionally, the Congress has been contesting more seats and NCP a few less, and on the other side, the Shiv Sena contests more while BJP gets a few less.

However, this time, the arithmetic may change drastically, if the current aggressive sentiments among all the four main parties are an indicator.

NCP state president Thursday announced that the party would settle for nothing less than 144 seats and will also claim the chief minister's post if it bagged more seats than Congress.

NCP workers, be prepared to contest all 288 seats if we don't get 144 seats from Congress, Ajit Pawar declared at a party meeting in Ahmednagar Friday afternoon.

Apparently hoping to divide even the opposition parties, Ajit Pawar added: I personally feel all the political parties of Maharashtra should independently contest elections at least once.

After the BJP's signals, some sections of the Shiv Sena have also started demanding that the party (SS) should go it alone and contest all 288 seats.

However, senior leaders from both the BJP-SS have attempted to soothe ruffled feathers and declared that there was no threat to the alliance.

Even the Congress chose to react guardedly to the NCP's demands and its top city and state leaders said that the issues must be discussed and decisions must be taken after considering all aspects.

In private, though, leaders from both sides admit that - despite the big claims - it may be difficult to break their respective alliances, given the change in political dynamics after the outcome of the last Lok Sabha elections.


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