Mumbai: Posing a potentially tough challenge to the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will ally for the Feb 16 polls.
The decision was announced late Tuesday after hectic negotiations between the two parties following NCP chief Sharad Pawar`s Sunday `ultimatum` to the Congress to finalise the alliance by Monday.
The Congress will contest 169 seats and the NCP 58 in the 227-strong BMC house -- the alliance materialising for the first time since the formation of the NCP over a decade ago.
"We had attempted for an alliance in the two previous civic elections but we succeeded only the third time," Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress said after emerging from the marathon meet.
"We have amicably agreed over the number and even the wards each party will contest have been almost finalised," he added.
While 90 percent of the wards to be contested by both parties have been decided and the remaining within a couple of days, Chavan magnanimously declared that the Congress would adopt a `flexible` stand wherever required.
Claiming that the `historic alliance` would help dislodge the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, he said: "It will help end the bad governance in the BMC for the past 17 years and we shall bring back the lost glory of Mumbai."
Describing the Congress as `an elder brother`, NCP state president Madhukar Pichhad revealed that Pawar had directed them "to try for an alliance without stretching the number game too far".
Besides Chavan and Pichhad, other top leaders from both sides, including Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, city Congress chief Kripashankar Singh, NCP ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Sachin Ahir and city NCP chief Narendra Varma took part in the deliberations.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena-BJP-Republican Party of India (RPI), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party have also finalised their plans and are busy selecting candidates for the BMC elections.