NEW DELHI : The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra have finalized their seat-sharing arrangement for the assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year. The two parties have agreed to contest an equal number of seats.

Though the two are old allies, the move is significant because the NCP had parted ways with the Congress over seat-sharing in the 2014 assembly elections.

Maharashtra has 288 assembly seats. The two parties will contest 125 seats, each, leaving 38 for other friendly parties, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said in a Twitter post. A decision will be taken soon on the number of seats allies, such as the Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, and the Left parties will contest, he added.

“It will also be very significant as to who will contest from which seat and who the candidates will be," Pawar said.

While the Congress had won 42 seats in the 2014 assembly elections, the NCP had secured 41. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena, which had not formed a pre-poll alliance but had joined hands after the results, had won 185 seats, to form the government with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as the chief minister.

The Congress and the NCP also fared poorly in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year. Of the 48 parliamentary seats in the state, the NCP won only four, while the Congress won a solitary seat. As such, the forthcoming assembly elections are being seen as a test of survival for the two parties.

The Opposition alliance is also faced with concerns over high-level exits, said senior state Congress leaders. “We want to speed up campaigning to make up not just for the delay in announcement of the seat-sharing agreement, but also for filling the gaps where our leaders have shifted to the ruling alliance," said a senior state Congress leader, requesting anonymity.

The two parties are looking to hold an expansive campaign with joint rallies at important places such as Nashik, Pune, Nagpur, and Aurangabad, Pawar said on Monday.

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