There is no question of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) merging with the Congress, NCP leader Supriya Sule said today, rejecting a Congress leader's suggestion that has fueled speculation as the two parties campaign for the October 21 Maharashtra election. Supriya Sule also described the BJP's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as a "translator" who did nothing but tell people about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decisions in Marathi.
"It is their opinion," Ms Sule told NDTV, asked about Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde suggesting a merger.
She said NCP chief Sharad Pawar, her father, had already made it clear it was not on the cards.
On Wednesday, Mr Pawar had quipped while campaigning in Kolhapur, "They say I am 80 years old. Do you think I am old? I won't sit quiet until the Sena-BJP government is removed in this state. And for that 'Abhi toh main jawan hoon. Koi chinta karne ki kaaran nahi hai (I am still young. No one needs to worry)."
Did that statement mean there was no question of a merger with the Congress?
"Obviously, obviously...in black and white," replied Ms Sule.
Would a merger help the Congress-NCP alliance, she was asked. "If I don't need to go on that road, why should I worry? If I am not going on that destination, why should I worry about the connectivity," she responded.
Ms Sule rubbished the idea of the Congress's internal divides and rebellion having an impact on the NCP. "Dissent is a part of democracy, one or two people in such a grand old party saying anything ...I don't think it is of much relevance. The Congress's house is in order. They maybe have some challenges, which I am not aware of... We are very confident, very happy working with the Congress," she said.
Asked to comment on a Congress leader like Salman Khurshid saying Rahul Gandhi "walked away" from the party top post after the national election defeat, the NCP MP called it an "internal problem" of the Congress. "If someone in a large party feels a certain emotion, it is none of my business. It is nothing to do with my state or the issues it faces, like the agrarian crisis..."
On the rival BJP and Shiv Sena alliance highlighting corruption allegations against the Congress and the NCP, and also tom-tomming decisions like the ending of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, Ms Sule scoffed: "Our Chief Minister is only a translator. He has no work. He translates from Marathi to Hindi, whatever PM Modi does at the centre."
She declared that the NCP was "ready for battle".
"NCP is a political party. It is 365 days and 24/7 always ready for election. Like most political parties we are also ready for battle," she said.
On her father and her cousin Ajit Pawar being named in an Enforcement Directorate case, Ms Sule said it was "political vendetta" which "each and everyone knows". It was purely political use of muscle, she added.