Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde stirred up a controversy on Sunday when he said that Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar wanted to join the NDA in 1999 but the deal did not go through because he opposed it.

Mr. Munde was speaking at a rally in his home constituency of Beed.

The NCP rubbished Mr. Munde’s claims, calling them “a complete lie.”

“When the NCP was formed in 1999, the BJP wanted Mr. Pawar to join them but he refused because ours is a secular party,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said. Mr. Munde’s statement meanwhile brought the spotlight back on media reports regarding a secret meeting between Mr. Pawar and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on January 17.

Mr. Pawar first categorically denied the report. Then on Saturday, he went on the offensive, asking what was wrong even if he did meet Modi in his capacity as the Agriculture Minister. Speaking at a function in Thane, he said: “It’s not as if I am meeting someone from Pakistan or China.” The NCP clarified that Mr. Pawar’s statement should not be seen as a confirmation of reports regarding the January 17 meeting.

The Congress downplayed Mr. Pawar’s remarks. “Such meetings are common in politics. The UPA is united,” said Congress MP Rajiv Shukla.