In what is being perceived as a tactical shift by the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the party’s Maharashtra unit Tuesday mounted an offensive against Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Last month, the bonhomie shown by BJP and NCP leaders during private functions had triggered an intense debate in the state’s political circles. While Fadnavis had shared the dais with NCP leaders at the felicitation function of Pawar and former Maharashtra speaker Dilip Walse-Patil, Chandrakant Patil, who holds the No. 2 position in the Fadnavis cabinet, attended the felicitation of Maharashtra NCP chief Sunil Tatkare.
The NCP, however, appeared to have shifted the goalpost now. On Tuesday, it went after Fadnavis. NCP’s legislative party leader and former deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Tatkare targeted the CM over the “depleting law and order situation” in Maharashtra.
Criticising the government for the recent custodial death of a 26-year-old robbery suspect, Aniket Kothale, in Sangli, Pawar said, “The government must be ashamed. If it can’t control police brutality, what hope does a common man have.” Kothale’s family has alleged that he had been falsely implicated in the case. While seven policemen have been suspended for the custodial death, the incident has given the Opposition fresh ammunition to target the CM, who heads the home department.
Pawar also demanded “a DNA test of the viscera” of the victim, while seeking a probe into the “links” in the case. Tatkare, meanwhile, announced that the NCP would launch a statewide agitation from November 25 on various “failures” of the government. Ahead of the Winter Session of the state legislature, the NCP will also hold a padyatra from Yavatmal from December 1 that would culminate outside the Vidhan Bhavan in Nagpur on December 11.
Both leaders also hit out at Fadnavis over the delay in complete implementation of the farm loan waiver. “This government had earlier announced that all eligible beneficiaries would receive the benefit of the loan waiver before November 25. This now seems impossible. The government has failed to raise the resources and the infrastructure for timely and effective implementation of the scheme,” said Pawar. Tatkare, meanwhile, announced that the statewide agitation, to start from Karad in Western Maharashtra, would also target the government over rise in unemployment, failure to resolve issues caused by urbanisation, among others.
With the NCP now seemingly desperate to shed the “popular perception” that it has a “tacit understanding” with the BJP, Ajit Pawar announced Tuesday that the party had decided “not to invite the CM for felicitation functions of NCP leaders from now onwards”.