The rebels who derailed Nisa-Today's proposed merger with Costcutter have launched a controversial bid to win seats on the buying group's board.

Papers seen by The Grocer show that former leading lights in the Nisa Members Association, which fought the merger last year but claimed to have disbanded in June, are standing for election to the Nisa board this month.

Former NMA chairman Mark Proudfoot, treasurer Ian Hunt and members Anjum Khan and Karnal Sekhon will all stand for election at Nisa-Today's agm on 28 November.

Meanwhile, several retailers have told The Grocer they were contacted by a market research agency asking for their views on the future of Nisa-Today's. The agency told them it was calling on behalf of the NMA.

This week, Proudfoot admitted the four candidates had commissioned the research - and he had instructed the agency to say that the poll was on behalf of the NMA "just to get them through the door". He denied the NMA had officially reformed - but would not rule out a comeback in the future. "We had discussions with Nisa chairman Raj Chatha when we disbanded," explained Proudfoot. "We told him that if the members called for the NMA to come back, then it would."

The four members were standing as individuals, said Proudfoot, though they shared many views about the future direction of the group. He refused to divulge the size of the telephone poll, but claimed 80% of the respondents said they believed the NMA had been a positive force over the past 18 months. Some retailers expressed alarm at the prospect of a reformed NMA. "Either they are disbanded or not," said one. "If they are still going they should come out and say it."

Another said there was no need for any splinter groups to spring up within Nisa because changes to the group's procedures meant members now had a bigger say in how it was run.

"It would be totally inappropriate for the NMA to re-group and campaign jointly again," he added.