The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by the Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar should merge with the Congress, because there is no justification for its separate identity, Dr Ratnakar Mahajan, a senior NCP functionary and close aide of Pawar, demanded on Monday.
Mahajan, a founding member of the NCP, wrote a letter to Pawar calling for serious introspection on the party's identity and its failure to establish a separate ideological, political or cultural base from the Congress.
"The reason for forming the party is non-existent today. In 1999, people gave a mandate against this (issue of Congress president's foreign origin). The following two elections, have again confirmed this," Mahajan wrote.
"On June 10, 1999, when the party was formed, you had expressed a desire to create a political culture that will take away the negative impression people have about politics and politicians. Even after ten years of existence, we are nowhere close to this expectation," states the letter.
"Even you have decided to support the Congress to keep communal forces at bay. In these circumstances, what is the need for a separate identity for the NCP?" The letter has raised several questions in political circles given that Mahajan's has been a close associate of Pawar since the socialist days.
It has also brought to the fore questions regarding the party's future. The party is likely to witness a tacit tussle between the second rung of party leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Home minister R R Patil and Pawar's nephew and heir apparent Ajit Pawar. Many of the legislators and ministers who came from the Congress to join Pawar, are thinking of returning to the Congress. Mahajan told HT, "If the party (NCP) exists only for power then, this power is not distributed horizontally but vertically.'" It isn't surprising that the senior party brass is upset. The state party president Madhukar Pichad told HT that the letter did not warrant serious consideration.
"It's a personal opinion. Mahajan has zero position or official authority in the party to raise such questions." A party functionary close to Pichad said Mahajan was upset that he wasn't made head of the state planning board for the second term.