Panaji: With elections in Goa less than a year away, top leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), including a former state president joined the Congress on Saturday. The NCP politicians who joined the Congress at a simple ceremony here include former state president Nilkanth Halarnkar, senior vice presidents Trajano D'Mello, apart from vice presidents Salim Sayed, Prakash Kalangutkar and seven other members of the NCP's state executive committee. "This is Goa's 'gatbandhan' (alliance) against the BJP," state Congress president Luizinho Faleiro told reporters when asked about the reason for the induction of the top NCP leadership into his party. The NCP, which has allied with the Congress party in Goa over the last decade, was routed by Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance in the 2012 state assembly poll, with the party unable to win a single seat. Speaking to reporters after joining the Congress, Halarnkar, a former state tourism minister, said that the reason for joining the Congress was to foster unity among the secular forces and to keep "communal forces" at bay in the forthcoming state assembly polls, which are likely to be held in January next year.