NCP president Sharad Pawar has said his offer of outside support to the BJP in 2014 to form government in Maharashtrawas a "political ploy" aimed to keep the Shiv Sena away from its then ally.
Pawar admitted he took steps to "widen the distance between the BJP and Shiv Sena".
The two long-term saffron allies parted ways after the state Assembly elections last year over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post.
Pawar said after the last year's Assembly polls, BJP leaders approached him to support the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state, but he told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the NCP will not go with the BJP and if possible, it will form government with the Sena or sit in the opposition.
"The BJP doesnt believe that non-BJP parties have the right to function in a democratic set up," Pawar, who played a key role last year in the formation of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, said in an interview to Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana'.
The last of the three-part interview series was published in the Marathi daily on Monday. For the first time, a non-Shiv Sena leader has featured in a marathon interview series in the publication.
"I made the statement (after 2014 state polls) consciously since I didnt want the Shiv Sena and BJPto come together. When I realised the post-poll alliance could materialise, I made that statement announcing readiness to support a BJP government from outside," Pawar said.
"That didnt work out. The Shiv Sena joined the government and the alliance government completed its full term," he noted.
The 78-year-old Maratha strongman said he believed allowing the BJP to be in power in Maharashtra was not in the interest of the Shiv Sena and other parties.
"The power at the Centre was with the BJP (in 2014) and if it is the ruling party in Maharashtra, it would be a loss to the Shiv Sena. The BJP doesnt believe that non-BJP parties have the right to function in a democratic set up. I knew all other parties face a danger. The statement offering outside support was a political ploy," he said.
"I accept that I took steps to widen the distance between the BJP and Shiv Sena," the veteran politician said.
Pawar rejected the claim of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis that he (Pawar) was in talks with the BJP to form government last year and then did a "U-turn".
"Some BJP leaders spoke to my colleagues and myself about government formation, saying they didn't want the Shiv Sena on board. They said since I had good relations with the prime minister, he should intervene and I should give my approval," he said.
"Hence, to avoid any confusion and perception about myself and my party, I met the prime minister in his chamber at Parliament House and told him the NCP will not go with the BJP. If possible, we will form government with the Shiv Sena or sit in the opposition," Pawar said.
Targeting Fadnavis over his remarks that Pawar was in talks with senior BJP leaders to form government in Maharashtra, he said, "Where was he? I dont think he has a place in the decision-making process at the national level."
Fadnavis became a known face after he became chief minister, while in the opposition he was only an active legislator and had "no say in the BJP's decision-making in the state and at the national level", Pawar said.
He said Fadnavis is yet to come to terms with not being able to form government again (last year).
"Power is never permanent. Whatever responsibility is given by people, we have to take it. When I lost chief ministership in 1980, I became leader of the opposition. There was more fun in that role for me," the former CM said.
"What do we see today? A former chief minister saying it was hard for him to digest he is no longer in power. This is not good for him. He should accept the reality," he said.
Asked about 'operation Kamal', Pawar said, "'Operation Kamal' of the BJP was misuse of power, weakening and destabilising democratically elected governments by misusing the power at the Centre."
'Operation Kamal' will not work in Maharashtra and the Thackeray government will complete its full term, he asserted.
"The 'Thackeray Sarkar' will complete full term and MVA allies will contest the next election together," he added.
Pawar also said that the opposition parties have the capability to provide an alternative to the nation (at the Centre). "But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process has stopped. Once this crisis is over, political momentum will gain ground," he said.
Earlier this year, there were some meetings and the opposition parties discussed some policies. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, he said.
"I will take the initiative. Providing an alternative is the need of the hour," he said.
Speaking about the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government, Pawar said there was no problem in the dispensation, but dialogue among allies was lacking.
"It is a three-party government and dialogue between the three parties was necessary. I can't see such a dialogue. If it is there, you will not hear rumours of rift or differences," he said.
To a question on Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi being asked by the Centre to vacate the bungalow allotted to her in Delhi, Pawar said, "I dont think this is cultured behaviour. Power should be used with humility. Such things happen when the arrogance of power goes in your head."
"Priyanka is the daughter of a former prime minister (Rajiv Gandhi) who was assassinated. You may have political differences. But, there is no wisdom in using the power in hand to harass political opponents, he said.