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The Hindu
The Hindu
Shoumojit Banerjee

Sharad Pawar-led NCP quashes rumours of merging with Congress

The top leadership of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday refuted speculation that their faction would be merging with their ally Congress.

Mr. Pawar recently lost control over the name of his party (which he had founded in 1999) along with the NCP’s iconic clock symbol after the Election Commission awarded both to the rebel NCP faction led by his nephew, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar who had split the NCP in July last year. As a one-time option ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls, the Election Commission approved a new name – ‘Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar’ – for the NCP patriarch’s group.

The speculation that this group would soon be merging with the Congress was triggered by a remark made by a former NCP leader Mangaldas Bandal, while speaking to reporters in Pune during a meeting of the Sharad Pawar group leaders at Mr. Pawar’s Modi Baug residence in the city.

Immediately after his statement, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, responding to questions about a potential merger, said: “The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party will not merge with any political party. What responsibility does Mangaldas Bandal have in our party? Even I do not know this. Who is spreading such speculation?”

Ms. Sule further said her party would contest the upcoming polls as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition and that the meeting held on Wednesday was about seat-sharing within the MVA and planning for future poll campaigns of both the MVA parties and the INDIA bloc alliance.  

Sharad Pawar group leader Prashant Jagtap, a former Mayor of Pune, said Mr. Bandal had nothing to do with the party while categorically dismissing all suggestions of a merger with the Congress.

Likewise, former Maharashtra Minister Anil Deshmukh said there was no discussion about any merger held during the meeting. “The meeting was to discuss MVA poll campaigns in the future. There is no question of us merging with the Congress. They are our partners in the MVA,” Mr. Deshmukh said.

Ms. Sule further informed that Mr. Sharad Pawar had spoken with Arvind Kejriwal and was streamlining the poll campaigning of the INDIA bloc leaders in Maharashtra.

Chastising the Election Commission’s decision to award the NCP name and symbol to the Ajit Pawar faction, Ms. Sule said: “We will be challenging the EC’s decision in the Supreme Court and await a new name and symbol with which we will fight the Lok Sabha polls. Invisible forces have snatched the party out of Sharad Pawar’s hands. But I will not term [the EC’s decision] an injustice as we will appear to be seen as weak. We are among those who will fight and win on merit.”

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