Pune/Mumbai: Congress and NCP, facing tough Assembly elections in Maharashtra later this year from a resurgent Shiv Sena-BJP combine, haggled over seat-sharing, putting the 15-year-old alliance under strain.
While Congress on Thursday said the alliance will continue only if a decision on the seat-sharing is taken without compromising its "self-respect", NCP maintained it deserves more Assembly seats as it has expanded its base in the State.
As both sides talked tough, Nawab Malik, spokesman of NCP- which is demanding equal distribution of the 288 Assembly seats - said its President Sharad Pawar will take a call on future course of action on the issue at a meeting in Mumbai this week.
Speaking in Pune, Chief Minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan asserted seat-sharing with the Pawar-led outfit will have to be "honourable" for his party, the senior partner in the alliance that is in power in Maharashtra since 1999.
Referring to ongoing parleys with NCP leaders who are insisting on contesting 144 seats, a demand opposed by Congress, Chavan said, "The alliance will continue only if an honourable agreement on seat allocation is reached and not otherwise.
Chavan, addressing Congress workers from western Maharashtra, said seat-sharing talks with NCP were taking place under the guidance of AICC General Secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash.
"We are not bothered whether BJP and Shiv Sena fight elections together or part ways," he said.
Later talking to reporters, the Chief Minister said "no agreement can be an one-sided affair", and hoped a satisfactory solution on pre-poll pact is reached.
Earlier, MPCC President Manikrao Thakre also asserted that Congress will not agree to leaving 144 seats for NCP under any circumstances.
"We will never agree to giving 144 seats for NCP to contest. During our talks, NCP leaders put their claim to 144 seats, saying their strength in the state had increased.
"We do not accept this. Congress workers should keep themselves ready to contest all 288 seats (if no agreement is reached with NCP)," Thakre said.
In 2009, Congress contested 174 seats and NCP fielded nominees in 114 Assembly segments. In the just concluded Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, which has 48 seats, NCP bagged four, while Congress won just two. The Sena-BJP-led alliance won a robust tally of 42 Lok Sabha seats.