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Will Congress and NCP join hands and become one?

A day after NCP leader Sharad Pawar announced that the Congress wants him to lead the ruling Congress-NCP alliance in the State assembly polls, insiders from both parties say a possible merger between the two may be on the cards

Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s appeal to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to merge with Congress may not have cut much ice in the past. But according to sources, this time things are different. The ongoing developments in New Delhi are not just about replacing Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan with someone else but, sources allege, there is more than what meets the eye. Sources claim that the Congress and NCP are discussing modalities of a possible merger of the two parties.

Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi
Peace operation: NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi seem all set to challenge the BJP and Shiv Sena in the upcoming State elections.  File Photos

Quite a few eyebrows may have raised over NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s statement on Friday where he claimed that the Congress wanted him to lead the State assembly polls on behalf of both the parties. Apparently, it is part of a big game plan in the offing to put a formidable challenge before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena in the state assembly elections in October.

Congress and NCP
Talks are underway in New Delhi about who will head the government after Congress and NCP’s merger as the Pawar-led party has strong reservations over CM Prithviraj Chavan’s style of working. File Pic

The series of meetings between A K Antony and Ahmed Patel, emissaries of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, with Pawar are not just about replacing Chavan. Even Pawar has made his side clear on the issue on Friday when he said replacing Chavan was Congress’s internal matter. He said, “I have not spoken on this issue with Congress leaders.” Most importantly, Pawar has stressed on Congress’ desire to have him at the helm of affairs during the State assembly polls. “But I am not inclined to return to state politics,” he has said. Sources told sunday mid-day that in normal circumstances Congress may not ask an outsider to be at the helm of the affairs undermining its own state leader (read Chavan). But in this case, Congress has made an offer to the NCP and further talks are on.

Pawar has said, “Even if Congress replaces Chavan with Sushilkumar Shinde, we will not have any problem. But, Congress will take us into confidence while doing so.” Sources also say that talks are also underway in Delhi about who will head the government after Congress and NCP’s merger as the Pawar-led party has strong reservations over Chavan’s style of working. In fact, the merger talks were on even before the Lok Sabha elections but at that time, the NCP had staked its claim on CM’s post for deputy CM Ajit Pawar. But Congress did not accept it. NCP wanted the post as a reciprocating gesture when the party relinquished its claim to the post after 2004 elections even after having more numbers in State assembly than the Congress, sources added.

NCP is also asking for a bigger share in ticket distribution that will be decided by Pawar himself and Congress central unit will not meddle in it. According to sources, even if the merger talks fail, Pawar wants to make big changes from his side. Most probably his party will not have a Deputy CM’s post as Pawar wants collective leadership to face elections thereby marginalising his nephew and bringing his daughter Supriya Sule into the state political scene.

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