MUMBAI: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President on Thursday indicated that his party has no plans to ditch the Shiv Sena and join hands with the BJP to remain in power in Maharashtra. At the same time, Pawar, who is projected as the architect of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, showered praise on his new ally, the Shiv Sena, saying that it is a party which one can trust. In the same breadth, the veteran leader announced that the MVA government will not only complete its five-year term but will perform well in the next Lok Sabha and the assembly elections slated for 2024.
Pawar broke his silence on the occasion of the NCP’s 22nd foundation day. His statement came days after reports surfaced about his secret meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a leading industrialist’s house in Ahmedabad. Shah had neither confirmed nor denied the meeting with Pawar but everything need not be made public," he had said.
By reiterating that NCP’s alliance with the Shiv Sena will continue, Pawar has quashed the possibility of collaborating with the BJP in the state.
Pawar also ruled out the possibility of a new political equation, especially in the wake of a half-an-hour meeting between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. Pawar downplayed the tete-a-tete between Uddhav and Modi by declaring that '‘the Shiv Sena is a party you can trust. Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had honoured his commitment to Indira Gandhi.’’
Pawar & Balasaheb Thackeray’s friendship was a talking point in the state. Though both were rivals and known to criticise each other off the field, they were also very good friends. The NCP chief t indicated that the bonhomie with the Shiv Sena in the new arrangement will also continue; also, Uddhav will not return to the estranged partner BJP.
Pawar’s praise for Shiv Sena came days after he was called on by former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis. Although Fadnavis had said the meeting was a courtesy call, it had sparked speculations in political circles.
"We have formed a government comprising parties of different ideologies. We never thought we would one day form a government with the Shiv Sena because we had never worked together. But the experience is good as all the three parties are working in tandem during the COVID-19 pandemic," Pawar said.
Pawar said, "Many parties have come and gone in Indian politics but from the past 22 years, NCP is trying to increase its power in the state. When we were not in power many left us but I am glad this gave a chance to the next generation of leaders to assume responsibility. This government has been accepted by the people & now they trust this government.”
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena and the BJP were engaged in a verbal duel. State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said BJP’s friendship was with the tiger in the forest and not in the cage (he was referring to Sena severing ties with the BJP and joining hands with the Congress and the NCP).
On the other hand, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said ‘’No one can make friends with a tiger (Shiv Sena's election symbol). It is the tiger that decides whom he wants to be friends with."
Raut is currently on a tour of north Maharashtra where he is working towards strengthening the party base. "All Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies have a right to expand their base and strengthen the parties. It is also the need of the hour. We are also holding meetings on strengthening our coordination among each other," he said.