Mumbai: In a pre-election boost to the NCP, nine independent legislators, including a minister, on Monday joined the party which said it was firm on contesting 144 out of the total 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra going to the polls next month.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the ball is now in the Congress' court.
The new entrants included minister Dilip Sopal, who wasn't present during the induction, but announced his entry via mobile phone call to Ajit Pawar.
The other legislators who joined the Sharad Pawar-led NCP today were Mansingh Naik-Shirala, Balasaheb Patil-Karad, Makrand Patil-Wai, Ramesh Thorat-Daund, Babasaheb Patil-Ahmedpur, Suresh Deshmukh-Wardha, Sharad Gavit-Navapur and Sahebrao Patil-Amalner.
The NCP also made it clear that it was firm on contesting 144 seats for the October 15 polls.
"The top leaders of Congress and NCP held talks on seat-sharing in Delhi. We are awaiting response. The ball is in their court," Ajit Pawar told reporters after inducting the nine independent legislators into NCP.
"We are firm on 144 seats," he said.
Asked if there were plans to contest polls sans Congress, he said, "So far there are no such plans."
When pointed out that Congress leaders were scrutinising candidates for other seats which are in NCP quota, Pawar said, "If that is the case, we also won't keep quiet. Anyways, it is their (Congress) right to undertake such an exercise."
"There is a trend seen in workers of all parties to go independent," he said, in response to a query.
Senior NCP leaders feel that there should be no division of secular votes, Pawar said.
Meanwhile, the NCP today also inducted ex-legislator Rajan Teli, a former aide of Congress state campaign chief Narayan Rane.
NCP state president Sunil Tatkare evaded a direct response to queries on Teli's name allegedly figuring in a murder case.