Delhi: The meeting in Delhi on Thursday between Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and NCP president Sharad Pawar prompted speculation in state political circles about a possible merger of the two parties.
State leaders of both the parties, however, said they were unaware if the issue of merger was discussed during the meeting.
Pawar maintained that he and Gandhi discussed matters pertaining to Maharashtra Assembly polls, due later this year, and also the drought situation in the state.
Pawar, along with some other leaders, had walked out of the Congress in 1999 over UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue and formed the NCP the same year.
The Congress bagged 52 Lok Sabha seats in the recently held general election. It is falling short by two seats to claim the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lower House.
The NCP won five Lok Sabha seats, including four from Maharashtra.
Pawar tweeted after his meeting with Gandhi, "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."
Asked if a possible merger is being discussed, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said there is no such discussion within the party on the issue.
State Congress president Ashok Chavan, whose party won just one seat in Maharashtra in the recent Lok Sabha polls, said, "When leaders of two political parties meet, politics is discussed. If two parties come together, it helps to avoid division of votes. But the issue of merger of two parties in different. I have no knowledge about it."
Pawar was part of the Congress before forming the NCP in 1999. NCP is part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Pawar skips Modi swearing-in
NCP president Sharad Pawar didn't attend the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new team of ministers as the veteran politician was not allotted seat at the event "as per protocol", the party said Thursday.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik expressed disappointment over the alleged episode, saying, "It was not right" given that Pawar is a senior national leader who had served as a Union minister and also Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
On Thursday evening, Modi was sworn-in as the Prime Minister for a second term helming a 58-member ministry. The oath-taking ceremony was held at the forecourt of majestic Rashtraparti Bhavan in New Delhi.
Malik said Pawar's office had first checked seat allotment for him at the mega event, attended by 8,000 people, including leaders from the neighbouring countries.
According to media reports, the 78-year-old Maratha strongman was allotted a seat in the fifth row.
"His office learnt he was not allotted seat for the event as per protocol. Hence, he didn't attend the event.
"Whether they did it deliberately or it happened by mistake, it wasn't right given he is a senior leader," Malik told PTI over the phone.