Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday expressed disappointment at senior Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde’s suggestion that the Congress and his party should merge as they were both “tired”.
Stating that Mr Shinde must have been speaking for his own party, the 78-year-old former chief minister said the NCP — which turned 20 on June 10 this year — had enough strength to take on divisive forces. “I am the national president of the NCP. I’m very well aware of my party’s situation. Mr Sushilkumar Shinde must have been speaking about his own party,” said Mr Pawar, who was in Jalgaon district of north Maharashtra for election campaign-related work.
Mr Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar also downplayed Mr Shinde’s statement, which had re-ignited murmurs about the merger of NCP with the grand old party.
Mr Shinde — who had once termed Mr Pawar his political guru — had, on Tuesday, caused a flutter while addressing a public rally for an NCP candidate. “The Congress and the NCP had grown in the lap of the same mother, and are both tired. They should both merge,” he had said. The veteran Congress leader’s statement assumes significance as the Maharashtra Assembly election is just around the corner.
Mr Pawar — who had served as chief minister of Maharashtra on three separate occasions — established the NCP in 1999 after quitting the Congress over the issue of the foreign origin of the then-president of the party, Sonia Gandhi. The NCP, however, went on to join the Congress to form government at the state as well as national level on numerous occasions.
After the recent Lok Sabha election, there was speculation of a merger of the Congress and the NCP, but Mr Pawar dismissed all such talk. The party is now facing a battle for survival as several of Mr Pawar's close confidants and other senior leaders have abandoned the party and joined the BJP.