Indications from Uddhav Thackeray on exiting Maharashtra govt: Sharad Pawar
Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar created a flutter in Maharashtra politics on Tuesday when he said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had met him 10 days back to “discuss the political situation in the state”.
Talking to reporters at Karjat in Raigad district where his party is holding a chintan shivir (contemplation camp), the NCP president said Thackeray gave indications that he was not in favour of staying in power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.
“Uddhav Thackeray met me some 10 days back and asked me about NCP’s political position. I told him to declare Shiv Sena’s position first,” Pawar said, adding Uddhav did not sound like he wanted to continue in government.
The Shiv Sena did not issue any official response to Pawar’s statement.
In the 288-member Maharashtra legislative assembly, the BJP is the single largest party with 122 members, 23 members short of the half-way mark. The Shiv Sena, part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has 63 legislators. The Congress has 42 and NCP 41. Interestingly, the main theme at the NCP conclave is the decline of the party in all elections in the state since the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
The NCP chief said Thackeray was keen on expanding the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and this required it to keep distance from the BJP. Pawar’s statement holds significance in the context of Shiv Sena’s frequent threats to pull out of the BJP-led government in the state. Just last week, Thackeray asked Shiv Sena legislators and cadres to stay ready for elections and take a critical position vis-a-vis the BJP-led government on public issues.
On demonetization and the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) in particular, the Shiv Sena has targeted the Narendra Modi government. The Sena mouthpiece Saamana has criticized the Modi government’s plan to celebrate 8 November, the first anniversary of demonetization, as ‘anti-black money day’.
Pawar’s statement also adds to the confusion over the NCP’s position in the event of Shiv Sena pulling out of the BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra. Pawar has clarified on a few occasions recently that the NCP would not support the BJP in case the BJP loses majority in the House. Yet, the NCP chief has also given indications to the contrary. Around mid-October, Pawar informally met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, soon after Thackeray sounded yet another threat of pulling out. In October, Pawar shared a public stage with Fadnavis on at least three occasions where the former was felicitated for completing 50 years in public life. At the felicitation in Nagpur, Fadnavis, in fact, took a dig at Shiv Sena without naming it when he called Pawar a “generous rival who was better than a selfish friend”. Pawar, however, has hedged his position against the speculation that the NCP would offer support to the BJP by publicly criticizing the Fadnavis government on several issues including the farm loan waiver.
Pawar also pointed out the increasing turnout for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s public meetings in Gujarat, saying this had forced the BJP to take the Gandhi scion more seriously than it did before.
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