NEW DELHI Despite Sharad Pawar's ultimatum over seat sharing issue, Congress high command appears to be in no mood to relent to NCP's demand for as many as 65 seats in the Mumbai civic polls.
"An alliance appears difficult if NCP sticks to such a high demand", a senior party leader said while another said that the talks at the state level were still on and the high command was watching the situation.
Signals are that a seat adjustment is possible if Pawar's party seeks 'reasonable' number of seats in the polls to oust the Shiv Sena-BJP from power from the country's biggest civic body having a total of 227 Municipal Corporators.
Maharashtra Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan today held talks with central leaders A K Antony, Ahmed Patel and Mohan Prakash on the ticklish issue.
While Chavan said that both sides should resolve the impasse through immediate talks, Maharashtra PCC Chief Manikrao Thakre said that in the light of the outcome of the last civic polls, the NCP could lay claim to only 34 seats.
Pawar had yesterday issued an ultimatum to the Congress, asking it to make up its mind on the seat sharing issue by tonight.
The ultimatum came close on the heels of a letter by senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat expressing opposition to an alliance with the NCP at the cost of party's self-respect.
Reports from Mumbai were that the Congress is keen on an alliance with the NCP for the Mumbai civic polls, but Pawar's party's demand is "unreasonable" and if conceded, could create rebellion.
Kamat said that since the NCP had decided to go solo in its strongholds - Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad ? the Congress should ignore it in Mumbai.
On senior leader Gurudas Kamat's opposition to cede more seats to NCP, Chavan said Kamat had put forth his views before the party.
"It should not be construed as rebellion against the party," he said.
Earlier, addressing newly elected councillors and municipal council presidents, Chavan said the challenge before the Congress was to fight communal parties as well as regional parties.
"It is important to re-establish importance of national parties," he said, adding that Congress had won the highest number of seats in the municipal councils. Chavan also said panel system for each ward had virtually reduced the number of victorious independents.
The two parties had contested the previous civic polls separately as talks fizzled out in the end.
The talks between the two parties over an agreeable formula for the pre-poll alliance for the BMC polls have so far been inconclusive.
Congress leaders have said it would contest 170 seats and leave 34 for the NCP. The latter, however, wants 65 seats.
Congress had won 71 seats in 2007 election and finished second in 99 wards, whereas NCP had won 14 seats and finished second in 17 wards.
NCP leaders say in 2007, Congress agreed to cede 65 seats before the talks broke down, so this time, NCP should get at least 65 seats.