New Delhi -°C
Today in New Delhi, India

Aug 24, 2019-Saturday
-°C

Humidity
-

Wind
-

Select city

Metro cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata

Other cities - Noida, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhopal , Chandigarh , Dehradun, Indore, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna, Ranchi

Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Despite Sharad Pawar’s denial, speculations continue over NCP-Congress merger

The rumours of a possible merger of the NCP with Congress spread after Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited Pawar at the latter’s Delhi residence.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2019 16:42 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has made it clear that there are no plans to merge his party with the Congress but people are speculating.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has made it clear that there are no plans to merge his party with the Congress but people are speculating.(PTI File )
         

Now since Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has made it clear that there are no plans to merge his party with the Congress, the speculations over such a possibility should stop. Or will they?

The speculations began after Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited Pawar at the latter’s Delhi residence on May 30. Pawar tweeted that the duo discussed matters related to the forthcoming Assembly elections and drought situation in Maharashtra. However, the rumours of a possible merger of the NCP with Congress spread across the state in no time. Finally, at Saturday’s party meeting in Mumbai, Pawar clarified that there was no such plan. This is not the first time such speculations have arisen. In the past, too, there have been rumours over Pawar returning to the Congress.

Functionaries from both the parties (Congress and NCP) are divided over whether these are mere speculations or if something is cooking.

Those who feel that a merger is around the corner cite several reasons: Pawar is slowly reaching the fag end of his political career and would want to see Congress ideology in power in the state. After all, this is what his political mentor the late YB Chavan had done, they point out. They also say Pawar has sensed that the Assembly elections would probably see a repeat of 2014 with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena getting seats enough to win a majority.

Read more: Sharad Pawar rules out NCP-Congress merger

The trends in the Lok Sabha results also show the BJP and Sena leading in more than 220 Assembly segments. The Maharashtra Assembly has 288 seats and the saffron combine would need 145 to win simple majority. As such, merging the two parties could create a perception of a strong opposition in the state, which would be beneficial in the elections.

Some even say that Pawar wants to ensure a better future for his political heir Supriya Sule. What about his firm denial? They point one to a well-known joke in Maharashtra politics: One should assume the opposite when Pawar says something. The shrewd politician has mastered the art of keeping his friends and foes guessing over his political moves.

However, close aides of the Maratha strongman do not see the possibility of such a merger. The circumstances in which Pawar quit the Congress have not changed, they point out. Pawar rebelled against Sonia Gandhi’s leadership in 1998, which was an outcome of his power tussle with a few leaders close to the then Congress president. They were suspicious that the Maratha strongman wanted to take control of the party or to be prime minister.

Things have not changed much in the past two decades and several top Congress leaders are still suspicious of what the NCP chief is up to, say Pawar’s aides.

As such, Pawar would prefer his party to exist separately though he would continue to be in the UPA, they feel. They also add that the NCP is actually doing better than Congress even though it has not improved its performance. The party had won 4 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Congress could win only two. Now, it has maintained its tally and even got a candidate it sponsored elected, but the Congress’ tally has come down to one. Speculations about a merger could also be a ploy by people from one of the two parties to prevent legislators from crossing over to the ruling parties ahead of the Assembly elections. In several constituencies, a strong Congress-NCP could be a deterrent for possible defectors.

Whatever the reality, the fact remains that the Opposition and even the ruling camp is anxiously watching the developments on this front. The 2014 Assembly elections saw the Congress-NCP breaking their alliance to contest solo after running governments together for 15 years. Will the 2019 Assembly polls spring another surprise? STORM IN A TWITTER CUP IAS officer Nidhi Choudhari is probably the first government officer in Maharashtra to face action over a Twitter controversy.

Also read: NCP may demand more seats from Congress for Assembly elections in Maharashtra

Choudhari posted a sarcastic comment over the ‘patriot’ Godse episode. This was in connection with the controversy following BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur’s comment on Nathuram Godse.

However, opposition parties started criticising Choudhari following her tweet. Senior leaders went to the extent of demanding her suspension. Following this, the Fadnavis government played it safe and transferred Choudhari. The episode showed how our political parties react without considering the context. They should have seen her previous tweets on Gandhi.

First Published: Jun 04, 2019 14:04 IST

more from india