Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had opposed ties with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) when he was running a minority government after winning the state polls, Wednesday said there was nothing wrong in Prime Minister Narendra Modi sharing the dais with Sharad Pawar and that the NCP leader need not be treated as a “political untouchable”.
The Prime Minister will attend an event organised by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Baramati — Pawar’s turf — on Saturday. The two leaders will together address a farmers’ rally too. Fadnavis said: “The Prime Minister is often invited for developmental functions where he has to share the dais with leaders representing political parties. There is nothing wrong. There is no reason to raise a hue and cry.”
He admitted that BJP and NCP were two separate parties and ideologies. “We have differences. But that does not mean we should treat Pawar as politically untouchable. The PM represents the entire nation,” he said. Fadnavis, who will attend the function in Baramati, said: “To assume the meeting would lead to some realignment of permutations and combinations or politics is like stretching things too far without any facts.”
The coming together of the two leaders has stirred a lot of interest in the political circles. NCP president Sharad Pawar’s daughter and Baramati MP Supriya Sule had told this correspondent: “Some even asked me why the two are coming together on February 14? Saint Valentine’s Day? There is absolutely no politics. It is a KVK function where PM is the chief guest.” She added: “The NCP has always maintained that it would support the Centre and the state on developmental issues even though it is in the Opposition.
However, both the Congress and the Shiv Sena suspect some power play behind the scenes.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said it was for the BJP and the NCP to explain why the two were coming together at Baramati.
Senior Sena leaders said the BJP could have skipped the meeting. “There was no compulsion and it is for the BJP to explain why Modi should attend a function convened by Pawar at his home turf Baramati,” said a leader.
MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said the NCP had suo motu declared support to the BJP after the state elections. “We wonder what they are going to declare now,” he said. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, however, said: “Pawar had categorically said the NCP would never join hands with a communal party like the BJP. The NCP has always believed in secular politics.”
NCP state chief Sunil Tatkare too sought to ward off any potential criticism over the proposed visit, claiming that the party’s commitment to its ideology was unwavering.
On February 14, Modi will arrive in Baramati around noon after inaugurating global manufacturing giant General Electric’s multi-modal project in Pune’s Chakan. He will first visit the campus and museum of Vidya Pratisthan, an educational institute controlled by the Pawar family. He will then inaugurate an auditorium named after Pawar’s brother (late) Appasaheb Pawar, before making his way to the campus of the KVK where he would lay the foundation stone for a research institute.