MUMBAI: The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday held talks with the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and the CPI as part of their efforts to stitch an alliance in Maharashtra for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan, senior party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and state NCP president Jayant Patil held discussions with Raju Shetti of the SSS and CPI's Tukaram Bhasme earlier in the day.
The Congress-NCP combine is also holding back-channel talks with Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and is "hopeful" of the latter joining the grand alliance, sources said.
The BBM is already in discussion with the Asaduddin Owaisi-headed All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) for a tie up ahead of the polls.
The Congress and the NCP want the BBM to join their fold without the AIMIM, the sources added.
"The Congress and NCP leaders heard out Shetti and Bhasme to know their expectations in terms of seats they want to contest," a source said.
The source added that the discussions were preliminary in nature and the Congress and the NCP would hold more rounds of talks with the potential partners before finalising the actual number of seats each of them would contest.
Asked about the meeting, Shetti said the SSS welcomed the idea to form a grand alliance against the BJP.
But he pitched for the Congress and NCP, after regaining power, to turn into laws two private member's bills he has drafted on agrarian issues.
One of the bills is related to writing off farmers' debts and another is about implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report (which has suggested a slew of measures to address farm distress).
"We want assurance that these demands will form part of the common minimum programme of the grand alliance partners and will be turned into law.
We will talk about seat-sharing only after they agree to these demands," Shetti told PTI.
A senior CPI leader, requesting anonymity, said his party was ready to offer "maximum cooperation" in the bid of the Congress and NCP to dislodge the ruling BJP.
"Our party sought to know from the two parties how many seats they want to leave for us in Maharashtra.
Things are expected to be finalised by the end of this month," the CPI leader added.
Similarly, the Congress and NCP leaders had reached out to the Rajendra Gavai-led faction of the Republican Party of India, MLC Kapil Patil and Ashok Dhawale of the CPI(M) Sunday.
Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats and the Congress and NCP had fought on 26 and 22 seats respectively in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Farmers' leader Shetti is the lone member of his party in the Lok Sabha (from Hatkanangale constituency), while the CPI drew a blank in the last Parliamentary election.