NCP president Sharad Pawar Saturday dismissed speculation that his party was likely to merge with the Congress. Speaking at a party meeting here, Pawar also touched on the issue of alleged Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering, saying he had doubts about the technology from early on. The meeting was held Saturday to discuss the Lok Sabha results and review preparations for the Maharashtra Assembly polls. The NCP has its own identity and it will maintain it. Speculation about the merger with the Congress was a rumour spread by some journalists who wanted that "we should not stay together with our allies", Pawar said. The speculation about a possible merger had begun after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi met Pawar in Delhi after the Lok Sabha results.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president further said that political leaders, the media as well as political analysts thought that the government at the Centre will change after the Lok Sabha elections."But what happened was exactly the opposite... I had doubts about EVMs from early on," he said. "The BJP lost Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly polls even though they were in power (in those states). A doubt had crossed my mind whether these losses were (meant) for winning national elections," he said cryptically. The Bharatiya Janata Party is now trying to destabilise the Congress governments in the three states, he alleged.
Talking about the Maharashtra polls, which are due this year, Pawar said as, in the Lok Sabha elections, his party will give chance to young and fresh faces. Speaking at the meeting, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil said, "Pawar saheb's 79th birthday comes this December. We should gift him 80 MLAs (win 80 seats in Assembly polls)." Saying that the NCP had put its poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls (winning just four seats in Maharashtra) behind it, Patil said the party should highlight the work done in 15 years when it was in power in the state.
Senior NCP leader Ganesh Naik told reporters that a constituency-wise review was conducted in the meeting. Many NCP candidates spoke about how the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Agadhi (VBA) ate into their votes, he said.
"There was no discussion on the inclusion of Raj Thackeray's MNS in the alliance for assembly polls," Naik said to a question.