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'NCP to contest 22 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra'

The party will field some sitting ministers of state govt who have expressed their willingness and who possess electoral merits

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The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will field candidates on at least 22 seats in and around 20 seats from outside the state in upcoming elections, senior party leader and Union Heavy Industries Minister said here on Saturday.

He said the first list of 22 candidates from Maharashtra was being finalised. "There will be no less than 22 (seats); rather one more, which the party will be contesting in Lok Sabha polls. The party will field some sitting ministers of state government who have expressed their willingness (to contest) and who possess electoral merits," Patel said at a meet-the-press programme here.

The tussle between and Congress over seat sharing is on with reports that state unit Congress president Manikrao Thakre is in favour of slashing NCP quota from 22 seats to 19. Congress had expressed it would contest 29 Lok Sabha seats. Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to Lok Sabha, which is second largest after Uttar Pradesh.

Patel, the party MP from Bhandara-Gondiya seat, informed that the NCP will field 15 to 20 candidates outside Maharashtra and was open for "suitable alliances".

"NCP will field one or two nominees each from Gujarat, Goa, Bihar, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Lakshdweep and Andman," he said.

In 2009 elections, NCP had contested 22 seats and won eight while Congress fought from 26 seats and pocketed 16 in Maharashtra.

Patel said in Bihar, NCP was in touch with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan for forging a possible alliance with RJD and LJP, respectively.

On the future prospects of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Patel said there was no threat to established national parties from the newbie. To a query he said, the UPA at Centre should have "vehemently defended" the decisions on 2G and allotment of coal blocks which came in for criticism from opposition parties.

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