Weeks before the official announcement of assembly poll dates for Maharashtra, interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in the national capital on Tuesday to discuss seat sharing in the state.

During the meeting, held at Gandhi’s residence, issues related to an alliance between Congress and NCP along with regional parties opposed to the alliance of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena in the state were also discussed.

“We want that both Congress and NCP should contest on equal number of seats and the remaining seats should be for regional parties and Left parties. We are not very rigid on the issue of seat sharing but there should be a broad-based alliance in the state to counter the alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena," said a senior leader of NCP based in Delhi.

Apart from the Left parties, primarily Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, the Congress and NCP are mulling the inclusion Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in their anti-BJP alliance.

“The Congress party has some reservations about the inclusion of MNS in the anti-BJP alliance in Maharashtra, so there will be further deliberations on the issue. This is just the first meeting. The prime concern of both Congress and NCP is to have broad based alliance rather differences over seat sharing," the NCP leader added.

This is the first time since becoming the interim chief of Congress that Sonia Gandhi has held talks with NCP for Maharashtra elections. The state polls are likely during October-November.

Interestingly, the meeting between Gandhi and Pawar took place nearly two months after Raj Thackeray met the former at her residence in Delhi in July.

The alliance between Congress, NCP, and regional parties is crucial for the opposition because the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won 41 seats in Maharashtra in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Opposition is hoping that the combined strength of most opposition parties in the state would be able to counter the political and electoral strength of BJP-Shiv Sena in the assembly polls.