Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who faces a tough task to turnaround the Congress fortunes after the debacle in Lok Sabha polls, today said the party has put the May defeat behind and is set to seek a fresh mandate in the next month's Assembly elections.
Talking to reporters after the poll date was announced, Chavan said the party has been preparing for the Assembly polls with full vigour.
The Chief Minister, who took charge in late 2010, said "senior leaders had been assigned specific tasks and the party is presenting a picture of collective responsibility."
Chavan said seat-sharing talks with ally NCP were on and announcement regarding an agreement will be made soon. "We have completed the process of candidate selection as well."
The CM, who survived calls from a section of his party for ouster in the wake of humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, where Congress won just two seats, said the people of the State will defeat communal forces at the hustings.
"We have achievements of our 15 years of rule in the State and 10 years of UPA Government to highlight among the electorates. People know the economic mess the Sena-BJP Government created when they were given a chance to govern the State (1995-99)," the Congress leader maintained.
He said the Congress-NCP Government had successfully tackled several challenges and ensured Maharashtra retains its top position in various fields like infrastructure, health, education, horticulture and industrial development.
Chavan said the Congress manifesto would be released soon and it would focus on the party's plans to develop a knowledge-based economy in Maharashtra, one of the most industrialised and urbanised States in the country.
Asked if he will contest the Assembly polls, Chavan, currently a member of the Legislative Council, said a decision in this regard would be taken by the party's poll panel. "I have conveyed my views to the party," the 68-year-old engineer -turned-politician said without elaborating.
Chavan said the seat-sharing talks with the Sharad Pawar-led outfit would take place in two phases -- finalising the number of seats each party will contest and swapping of Assembly segments. "Interests of both parties will be taken into consideration while finalising the agreement."
The election for 288-member Assembly will take place on October 15. In 2009, Congress had contested 174 seats and NCP 114, but the latter is now demanding more seats.