Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar meet amidst rumours of Congress-NCP merger

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in Delhi. Sources say  that the leaders discussed the possibility of a merger of the two parties. 

Amid speculation about a merger between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, Congress president Rahul Gandhi met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar here. The meeting, which lasted close to an hour, was held at Pawar’s residence.

Insiders claim that if such a merger takes place, the Congress-NCP’s tally in the Lok Sabha will go up to 57, and the merged party will be eligible to get the Leader of the Opposition post. 

As a gesture, the Congress is likely to accommodate Pawar in this regard. However, a final decision on the merger is yet to be taken by both parties.  Pawar was in the Congress before he floated the NCP in 1999. The NCP is part of the Congress-led UPA.

The meeting comes amid uncertainty over who will be the next Congress president as Rahul has been adamant that he does not want to continue at the post. Several Congress, as well as Opposition leaders, has been urging Rahul not to resign from the post and reconsider his decision.

Taking responsibility of the Congress debacle, Rahul had offered to step down from the post. He had offered to resign at the Congress Working Committee meeting in Delhi but was unanimously rejected his resignation.

In the recently concluded Lok Sabha election, the Congress bagged 52 seats while NCP won 5 seats. Congress is two short of getting the post of Leader of Opposition in Parliament, as a party needs to win at least 10 per cent of Lok Sabha seats to be eligible for the post. So the minimum seats required for the same is 54 as the Lok Sabha has 543 elected members. Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma, and Tariq Anwar formed NCP, an offshoot of the Congress in 1999 after they questioned Sonia Gandhi’s right to lead the party on account of her foreign origins. The three leaders were expelled from the Congress and they went on to form the NCP.

However, the NCP has been part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which is headed by Sonia Gandhi.

However, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar did not agree with the news or rumours of the likely merger, adding that he and Gandhi discussed the Lok Sabha election results, the drought and imminent Assembly polls in Maharashtra during their meeting. “At no stage was there any discussion on NCP’s merger with Congress. These are all rumours.”
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik too rejected reports of merger. “Prima facie, it appears that an attempt is being made to confuse NCP and Congress activists.”

However, the buzz remains in the corridors of power that the merger move was on and it is a matter of time when the two parties announce it. The insiders say that the merger would be a win and win situation for the two sides keeping in view the impending Assembly elections in Maharashtra