The Congress on Monday distanced itself from general secretary Digvijay Singh’s suggestion that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) should return to its parent fold.

Mr. Singh’s ``personal view’’ is that since the issue which led to the creation of the NCP is no longer relevant, the party should merge with the Congress with which it shares its ``political DNA’’.

With Mr. Singh – who submitted his report on the party’s prospects in Western Maharashtra on Monday – repeating his views on the NCP merging with the Congress, the party’s media in-charge Janardan Dwivedi clarified that: ``The Congress has not taken a view on this issue; this is Mr. Singh’s personal view.’’

Meanwhile, Mr. Singh – who is seen as an ``anti-alliance’’ voice in the five-member committee set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to survey the pre-election mood in Maharashtra – maintained that the party was prepared to fight the upcoming Assembly elections in the State with the NCP.

This despite the anti-incumbency factor against the decade-old Congress-NCP Democratic Front Government set to hurt the NCP the most, as per Congress calculations. ``It will work more against the NCP as it had more ministers in the outgoing ministry,’’ said Mr. Singh; adding that poor power supply and drought could become key election issues. Added to this price rise in urban areas.

As for his report on Western Maharashtra, Mr. Singh said he had identified the seats in the region which the Congress should stake a claim for. He, however, did not disclose details on how many or which seats. Also, he has identified loopholes in the organisation at the grassroots in Western Maharashtra – the NCP bastion which was broken in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

Like him, three other party seniors – K. Rahman Khan, Mohan Prakash and Madhusudan Mistry – were assigned 12 Lok Sabha constituencies each in the State to survey and identify seats that the Congress should contest. Mr. Khan was assigned the Mumbai-Konkan region, Mr. Prakash was given Vidarbha and Marathwada, and Mr. Mistry North Maharashtra (Khandesh).

While a final decision on alliance will be taken by the party’s senior-most leadership, the Congress contention is that the 2004 seat-sharing formula will not work as delimitation has changed the demographic profile of constituencies.

Maharashtra has been particularly affected by the delimitation exercise as the State’s quota of five Scheduled Caste seats were redistributed so that five of the six divisions in Maharashtra got one reserved seat each. Till now, Nagpur and Aurangabad divisions had two SC seats each and the fifth was located in the Amravathi Division as a result of which the remaining three divisions were not represented by SCs in the Lok Sabha.

This, according to the Congress, has changed the electoral dynamics in the State; rendering existing seat-sharing arrangements redundant and opening up all of Maharashtra for re-negotiation.

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