Ever since veteran leader Sharad Pawar formed the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999, one question that always loomed large – will Sharad Pawar ever go back into the Congress fold? So far, there were straight denials to this question but now the tide may be turning. Notably, Pawar has never hesitated to add that he could not disassociate with at least the word “Congress.” This was also the reason why he named his party the Nationalist Congress Party.
Considering the recent setbacks in local body polls in Maharashtra, the Congress and NCP – old but now estranged allies – may be mulling a possible merger. The current situation of NCP is worrisome with two of its significant faces being entangled in legal battle. Besides, a section of Congress leaders feel that the merger with the NCP will be profitable to take on strong allies like BJP-Shiv Sena.
Top Congress sources tell Newsd that the decision of NCP-Congress merger has been already taken and now only finer details are being worked out. Recently, Rahul Gandhi had a one-on-one meeting with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar – just a day after the assembly election results were announced.
Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, sought a meeting with the veteran Maharashtrian politician. This was Gandhi’s first formal meeting with Pawar. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also interacted with the veteran leader.
The Congress and NCP have traditionally been the parties with a rural base in Maharashtra. But on the other hand, the saffron alliance of the the BJP and the Shiv Sena, are strong in the urban areas.
The merger will also give a much-needed fillip to Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule’s political career. NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal is in custody in a money laundering case while Ajit Pawar is under constant scrutiny by investigative agencies.
ED claimed that from 2006 onwards, the Bhujbals and their associates have laundered around Rs 4,264.25 crore.
At this point of time, the merger seems to be a wise decision to strengthen their political base.
History of Pawar-Congress and how the NCP was formed:
There’s a long-drawn history of Pawar and Congress and how the NCP was formed. Pawar first ventured out of the Congress in 1978, when it was governed by Indira Gandhi. He disassociated with his mentor to form the Congress (Socialist) with an intention to form the Union government with the Janata Party. Soon, he became the chief minister of Maharashtra at the very young age of 38.
Ever since, he was always known for his self-styled politics.
But then, Pawar’s government was banned in 1980 when Indira Gandhi came to power. He apparently had an inkling of this, so was quite prepared.
But then Indira Gandhi called him to Delhi for a meeting and offered him an olive branch to return to Congress. However, Pawar was wary of the Congress “high command culture,” so he politely declined the offer and stayed away from the Congress, thereby, losing all powers.
He worked hard with the opposition parties till the assassination of Indira Gandhi. But the 1984 polls proved a disaster for the opposition parties and Pawar lost all his confidence.
Rajiv Gandhi then told him that they should collaborate when he had gone to offer his condolences on Indira Gandhi’s death.
At this point, Pawar thought the new leadership in the Congress could be given a chance. Subsequently, he merged his party with the Congress and was made the CM of Maharashtra in just a few months. But issues continued to niggle him about the so-called “Congress culture.”
His style of governance, Pawar failed to impress then PM Rajiv Gandhi. He too had a tough time dealing with Congress leadership and being fitted in ‘high-command’ system.
Even when Sonia Gandhi took over presidency of the Congress party, he remained insignificant. Even under the new leadership, Pawar remained unhappy. And decided to leave the Congress in 1999 and formed NCP. “The Gandhi family was not about to allow someone with an independent mind to get the top post”, he has said in his autobiography.
However, both the NCP and Congress remained together till 2014 as alliance partners. But despite the hardest time in politics, Pawar always tried to maintain his identity, separate from that of the Congress. Pawar has always wanted to stay in politics on his own terms. While both parties finally parted ways in 2014 to contest Lok Sabha and even assembly polls on their own, a change of track may be very well on the cards.