The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has dismissed the speculations of a possible merger with the Congress party ahead of Maharashtra Assembly elections, scheduled to be held later this year. Addressing party workers in the state, NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s Nephew Ajit Pawar said, "There is no question of a merger. The NCP will retain its independent identity… The Opposition is trying to spread a canard. Therefore, everyone (in the party) should say that there is no truth in it."
The speculations of NCP’s merger with the Congress were triggered after a meeting between Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi to discuss strategy for the upcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra and the prevailing drought situation in the state.
Speaking to reporters, Maharashtra NCP president Jayant Patil also denied the speculations of merger, terming the reports as "false news". "The question of a merger does not arise. There is no such discussion. Who is spreading false news?" the state NCP president said.
The NCP, however, is firm on contesting the upcoming Assembly polls together with the Congress but following the Lok Sabha results, the party is likely to vie for more seats than what it got last time the two parties had contested the polls.
NCP had won four seats in the Lok Sabha elections, while the Congress won only one seat. It was the worst ever performance of the Congress party in Maharashtra. In 2014, the Congress had won only two seats while the NCP had bagged four.
Both NCP and the Congress had contested the Assembly elections in Maharashtra together in 2009. At that time, the NCP had contested the polls on 114 of the 288 seats. In 2014 Assembly elections, the alliance between the two parties broke after the NCP demanded equal number of seats, citing improvement in its strength on the ground.