BJP Will Have to Bend, Share CM Post if It Wants to Form Maharashtra Govt, Says Sharad Pawar
The NCP chief made it clear that he had not received any proposal from the Shiv Sena and had not spoken with Uddhav Thackeray on post-poll power dynamics in Maharashtra.
File photo of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Mumbai: Putting to rest all speculation in Maharashtra politics on whether the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress will support the Shiv Sena if its alliance with the BJP fails to come through, Sharad Pawar on Friday made it clear that he had no proposal from the Sena and had not spoken with its chief Uddhav Thackeray over the power dynamics in the state.
The NCP chief speculated that the tangle of government formation will be resolved in less than 10 days, when the BJP and the Sena will come together to form the government. Pawar predicted that the BJP will have to bend and share the post of the chief minister if it wants the deadlock resolved.
The Sena, which won 56 seats in the 288-member Assembly in the just-held state polls, has been demanding the chief minister’s post for 2.5 years and a 50:50 division of portfolios. Both these demands have been rejected by the BJP, which has insisted that Devendra Fadnavis will remain chief minister for the next five years.
Giving Fadnavis an ultimatum of sorts, Pawar on Friday warned against the delay in the formation of government.
“We all know what had happened in Mumbai last time over the Ayodhya issue. I am worried that if a stable government is not in place before the Ayodhya verdict on November 9, it will not be in the interest of peace in the society. They should stop these childish games and form the government soon,” he said, speaking exclusively to CNN-News18.
Pawar also denied reports of a conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. Pawar said he has recently spoken to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who has invited him to Delhi on November 4 for a meeting of opposition parties.
In this candid conversation, Pawar opened up about the iconic Satara rally, which was a turning point in the Maharashtra elections. A drenched Pawar, addressing an election rally in heavy rainfall, had then apologised to Satarakars. Photographs and videos of the rally had later gone viral.
“We have taken a conscious decision to sit in the opposition. We are waiting for them to form the government,” Pawar said when asked about the NCP’s strategy in this deadlock.
When quizzed about the talks between the Sena and the BJP, he sided with the former. Pawar said that the Sena appears to have been promised a 50-50 deal and that the BJP should respect it.
“A statement came from the Shiv Sena after the elections. It seems from it that there was an understanding between both of them. There was an understanding on an equal number from both of them. But then, the BJP said there was no such understanding. From what has come out in the open, it seems like the BJP had said that there will be understanding on an equal basis. This was prior to the Assembly elections. That statement shows that what the Sena has said has some truth,” said the NCP chief.
When asked about the BJP’s argument that a party with 105 MLAs cannot share the chief minister’s position with a party with 56 MLAs, Pawar said, “If the BJP can form a stable government with 105, then there is merit in their argument.”
Answering a question on the NCP’s strategy and whether it will provide external support to either party, Pawar said, “We have no mandate. Where is the question of formation of government from our side? There is no truth to speculation that we will support the Sena for the formation of government.”
When asked about who will blink first in the Sena-BJP alliance, Pawar said, “The one who tires and succumbs to pressure will help form the government. When the Congress and I had formed the government a few years ago, we had discussed it for 10-15 days. Either the BJP will have to listen to them, or the Sena will succumb to the BJP. But I don’t know how this will work out. The Sena’s decision is taken in Mumbai, the BJP’s decision happens in Delhi. I don’t know which way it will go. I don’t know what Delhi thinks.”
Taking a jibe at Modi and Shah, Pawar said he did not know if the latter was the Union Home Minister.
“He works full time for the party,” said Pawar, adding that he does not discuss politics with Modi anymore.
“The last time I had a word with Modi was before the Lok Sabha elections. But we have stopped discussing politics since the time they have been personally targetting us. The way Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have targeted me during the elections, it is not good. As Prime Minister, if he thinks that such statements maintain the dignity of his office, what can I say? We have always abstained from passing any comments because we respect the institution of the Prime Minister. But we realise that this respect is one-sided,” he said.
Pawar has accused the BJP government of misusing central agencies, such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to silence him and other opposition leaders. The ED last month had registered a case of money laundering against Pawar, his nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, and others in a criminal case in connection with the Rs 25,000-crore scam pertaining to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).
When asked about his iconic images from the Satara rally where he continued his speech despite being drenched in heavy rainfall, Pawar said it had driven home the point that people were angry with the BJP government.
“Yes, it has benefitted. What was important was that even in such heavy downpour, people did not leave the ground. They waited to hear my speech. They held chairs on their heads. It showed how upset they were with the BJP dispensation,” said Pawar.
“When I had started my campaign, I realised there was public anger against the government. I saw the youth take the lead in this unrest. In the beginning, the media had mocked us. People had made fun of us. They said that we will not even get 20 seats. But the more I toured, the more I saw that the people’s mood was different,” he added.
Pawar said his party will now focus on the issues at hand in Maharashtra.
“Nearly 50% of the industrial units in the state are sick. There is agricultural distress and unemployment. We have made groups that have taken up work on these issues,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Pawar visited Nashik district in north Maharashtra to take stock of crop losses due to the rains and demanded that the government help the affected farmers. Untimely rains have damaged crops in many parts of the state.
“We will raise the issue with the government after getting detailed information. We hope the government will listen to us and help (the farmers),” Pawar said in a tweet after meeting farmers in various parts of the district.
Urging the farmers to not take any “extreme step” in the face of this crisis, Pawar said efforts will be made to find a solution at the level of both the state and central governments.
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