Exploring options: Rahul Gandhi meets Sharad Pawar amid talk of merger between Congress and NCP

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New Delhi | May 31, 2019 5:41 AM

After avoiding meetings with his party leaders for the last two days, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday drove to NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in the Capital and spent nearly an hour with him.

congress, ncp, sharad pawar, lok sabha elections, lok sabha elections 2019Congress president Rahul Gandhi meets NCP chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express photo: Anil Sharma)

AFTER AVOIDING meetings with his party leaders for the last two days, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday drove to NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in the Capital and spent nearly an hour with him, triggering talk of a possible merger between their parties.

Senior NCP leaders told The Indian Express that their party is yet to discuss any such proposal. But while they asserted that the issue did not figure in the meeting between Pawar and Rahul, they acknowledged that the massive defeat suffered by both parties in the Lok Sabha elections would prompt them to explore all possibilities.

“Congress President Mr. @RahulGandhi met up with me today at my residence in Delhi. We discussed matters pertaining to the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha Elections and the drought situation in Maharashtra,” Pawar posted on Twitter.

Gandhi also met Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and discussed the crisis that has hit the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in the state. Sources said he held a separate meeting with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Tariq Anwar, who recently joined the Congress after leaving the NCP, told The Indian Express that he had broached a possible merger with Pawar before he left the party. “Before leaving the NCP, I had told Pawar that it was time for the party to merge with the Congress. Pawar then told me he will talk to others. But he didn’t get back after which I quit the NCP and joined the Congress,” he said.

Anwar had walked out of the Congress along with Pawar and the late P A Sangma in May 1999, more than a year after Sonia taking over in March 1998.
Sources said Pawar and Rahul analysed the Lok Sabha debacle. The two parties, which fought the election in alliance, were routed with the BJP-Shiv Sena winning 41 out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. While the NCP won four seats, the Congress was reduced to one. The two parties will now face the Assembly elections in a few months.

Rahul’s meeting with Kumaraswamy assumes significance since the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka is facing an rebellion from a group of Congress MLAs. As many as seven MLAs skipped a meeting of the Congress legislature party held in Bengaluru Wednesday. AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal is in Bengaluru to placate the leaders.

Kumaraswamy was also upset with recent statements made by loyalists of former Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah pitching him for the post of the next chief minister.

“I called on AICC President @RahulGandhi today.We spoke about the current political scenario in the State and how the coalition govt is functioning smoothly with cooperation& coordination between both the parties. I appealed to Rahul Gandhi to not quit the AICC president position,” Kumaraswamy posted on Twitter.

Also read: Narendra Modi takes oath as PM for second term, over 8,000 guests attend spectacular ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Like in Maharashtra, the Congress-JD(S) alliance was routed in Karnataka with both the parties managing to win only one seat each. The BJP won 25 out of the 28 seats.

Meanwhile, with Rahul remaining firm on his decision to step down, party leaders have begun discussing possible options and potential names for the post of Congress president. Senior leader Ahmed Patel met Mallikarjun Kharge and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh to discuss the situation.

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