NCP joined hands with Cong to avoid secular votes division: Pawar

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Ahmedabad, Dec 8 (UNI) Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) President Sharad Pawar today said his party had joined hands with the Congress to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections only to avoid a division in the secular votes.

Though the Congress had allotted just nine seats to the NCP, the latter agreed to contest the elections jointly as a change in governance was the need of the hour in Gujarat, Mr Pawar said while speaking to mediapersons here today.

Mr Pawar arrived in Ahmedabad today to kickstart the NCP's election campaign and is scheduled to address a dozen public meetings across the state.

The NCP chief said the BJP had benefitted in the 2002 Assembly Elections in Gujarat due to the division in the secular votes.

He expressed confidence that although the NCP is contesting only nine seats, it would open its account in Gujarat. In a short span of eight years, he said, the NCP had registered its presence in nine states across the country and was sharing power with the Congress in Maharashtra and Goa.

Referring to the portfolios held by the NCP at the Centre, Mr Pawar said his party had contributed significantly to the agriculture and civil aviation sectors. He said farmers were getting loans at cheaper rates of interest, while air travel facilities had opened up for the middle and lower class people.

Since the Congress came out with the election manifesto, a separate manifesto by smaller partners would not be appropriate, but the NCP would focus on agriculture and industrialisation in the state, Mr Pawar said.

To a question on the recent controversial statements on the Sohrabuddin encounter case, Mr Pawar said the Gujarat Government's affidavit before the Supreme Court varied with the Chief Minister's statements at public rallies. ''We should respect the judiciary and refrain from discussing sub-judice matter in an open forum,'' Mr Pawar said, adding that the maintenance of communal harmony was the responsibility of all, and such statements should be avoided.

UNI

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