Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday issued a veiled rebuke to senior Congressman Sushilkumar Shinde over his remarks on the possible merger of the Congress and the NCP. Mr. Pawar said he was well aware of the situation of his own party, while implicitly rebuffing suggestions of a merger.Mr. Shinde, at a campaign rally in Solapur on Tuesday, had said both the Congress and the NCP belonged to the same ideological tree and that both parties were “tired”, while expressing hope that the two Congresses would come together in the future.“Since I am from the NCP, I am well aware of my party’s situation. Perhaps Sushilkumar Shinde was referring to the condition of his own party… but he cannot speak about the NCP,” said Mr. Pawar in Jalgaon, in a riposte to Mr. Shinde’s comment that the NCP was “exhausted” just like the Congress.With the State going to the polls in a little over 10 days, Mr. Shinde’s remarks was music to the ears of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which pounced on it to underscore the defeatist mentality in the Congress-NCP alliance before the electoral contest. ‘Cong. has no identity’Mr. Shinde’s statements illustrated the truth about the Congress, said former Leader of Opposition in the Assmebly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. Mr. Vikhe-Patil, who joined the BJP, said the Congress in Maharashtra had no identity left of its own. “It has hitched its wagon to the NCP’s fortunes and is dictated by them,” said Mr. Vikhe-Patil, a bitter adversary of Mr. Pawar and the NCP.BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil said, regardless of whether or not the Congress and the NCP had grown weary, the scions of the top leadership of both these parties were no longer interested in remaining with them. “It would not be surprising if the younger generation of the Pawar family joined the BJP in the future,” said Mr. Patil.Meanwhile, senior Congress and NCP leaders issued rebuttals over Mr. Shinde’s statements of a possible merger between the two parties. Stating that both the Congress and the NCP were contesting the elections in a spirit of unity, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said there was no talk of any merger between the two. “Both parties are in a coalition and are fighting as separate political entities. However, both are working together with a common aim to win more than 175 seats in the forthcoming polls,” Mr. Thorat said.Hitting out at Chandrakant Patil, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar accused the BJP State chief of deliberately trying to drive a wedge between the Congress and the NCP. “The remarks about a merger may be his [Mr. Shinde’s] personal opinion and as a senior leader he is entitled to it… however, as of now we are contesting as two different political parties with the sole aim of overthrowing the BJP-Sena government,” said Mr. Pawar. He had no wish to add to the confusion of Congress and NCP workers by making any further statements, he said.
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