A senior Congress leader gave such an indication this evening as the high command was grappling over the issue brought up by NCP at the last minute.

Central leaders like A K Antony and Mallikarjun Kharge are in touch with Congress leaders in Maharashtra including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Anand Sharma merely said that the two parties were in talks.

"We are talking together, hopefully we are remaining together. Alliance and coalition have their own dynamics, challenges and constraints...Progressive and secular forces should stay together. Let us wait," he said in reply to a volley of questions.

In Mumbai, state Congress campaign chief Narayan Rane said the Chief Minister was in discussion with the party high command over the NCP's demand and a decision on the alliance would be taken today.

Rane, also state's Industries Minister, said there would be no more meetings with NCP leaders on seat-sharing.

Reiterating that Congress was prepared to spare 124 seats for NCP, he said, "If the alliance does not materialise, we are ready to contest all the 288 seats. But Congress is in favour of continuing the alliance."

There have been no talks between the leaders of the two parties since their meeting last morning where Congress offered NCP 124 seats, ten more than it had contested in the last elections.

NCP had sought Chief Minister's post for half of the 5-year term if the alliance retained power. The formula was adopted by the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir sometime back with its then state partner PDP.

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