NCP Rules Out Merger with Congress

Pics by Rons Bantwal

Mumbai, Jun 30: NCP today ruled out merger with Congress with its supremo Sharad Pawar disapproving of a suggestion in this regard by senior leader Ratnakar Mahajan.

Maharashtra NCP President Madhukar Pichad told a press conference that he had spoken to Pawar about Mahajan's letter in which he suggested that the 12-year-old organisation should merge with Congress.

"Pawar, who is currently abroad, has disapproved of Mahajan's action of writing such a letter which is aimed at hurting the party, and leaking it to the media," he said.

Home Minister and NCP leader R R Patil was also present at the press conference.

Pichad said the party has decided not to take cognisance of the letter. Hence contemplating action against Mahajan does not arise.

Patil said Mahajan was "free to merge anywhere", but there was no question of NCP merging with any other party.

"Mahajan is just a party worker and he has no authority to raise such issues in public and tell the party leadership of what it should do," Pichad and Patil said.

Pichad said he has received a copy of the letter which Mahajan, former Chairman of the State Planning Board, had written to Pawar, who had left Congress to float NCP in 1998.

"If he had written a letter raising any issue and demanded a discussion in the party forum, we could have considered a debate. But, since he has gone public with the issue that is not on the party's agenda, we do not want to take cognisance of the letter and give him prominence," Pichad said.

To a question on Mahajan referring NCP as the "B team of Congress", Patil said he (Mahajan) was "the reserved player" of the party for over 10 years.

"It is wrong on his part to raise questions about the party's existence because he was not given any post," the Home Minister said.

Patil said Mahajan's presence or exit from the party would make no difference. "He has no right to make comments which create misunderstanding about the party."

Patil said there are several parties at the national level who share similar ideologies, but in a democratic set up, every body has the right to maintain their own identity.

Mahajan had maintained that Congress and NCP share same ideology.

Pawar had left Congress after raising Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue. NCP and Congress had separately fought the 1999 Assembly elections in Maharashtra. But post-poll, they joined hands to form a coalition government.

Since then, the two parties are allies at the Centre, in Maharashtra and some other states.



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