A day after the BJP took the initiative to reopen talks with the Shiv Sena to try and bring on board its erstwhile ally, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had offered unconditional support to the ruling party after last month’s polls, put the government on notice by predicting the possibility of mid-term polls in Maharashtra.
At a two-day NCP conclave which began on Tuesday at Alibaug, Pawar told party workers to gear up for mid-term elections in the state. Adopting an aggressive posture against the BJP, he said that ensuring the stability of the Maharashtra government is not NCP’s responsibility.
The NCP had until now defended its stand on offering unconditional support to the BJP government saying that it wanted to provide stability in the larger interest of the state.
The change in stance is viewed in political circles as another political ploy by Pawar to reassert the significance of his party in state politics. A former cabinet minister from the NCP, who is part of the core group, told The Indian Express that Pawar’s master stroke at the conclave was to defuse the growing unrest within the organisation following his offer to the BJP. Also, it comes at a time when Pawar reckons that there is a strong prospect of the Sena giving its nod to join the BJP led government in Maharashtra, he said.
Given the latest developments involving the BJP and the Sena, Pawar wants to seize the opposition space for the NCP instead of the Congress, which was more belligerent after the vote of confidence. Pawar also realises that a Sena-BJP alliance would spell fresh trouble as the BJP-led government may take the alleged corruption cases against some NCP ministers in the previous government to the logical end.
Taking the combined strength of the BJP (121) and the Sena (63) would make for a comfortable tally of 184 in the 288-member Assembly. The NCP, which has 41 members, reckons it would be redundant if the Sena joins the BJP. The Congress (42) has taken on the mantle of the Opposition party in the state.
The BJP does not appear to be fazed by the NCP’s veiled threat. BJP leaders said that the party did not take support from the NCP during the trust vote in the Assembly on November 12. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The people of Maharashtra have voted for my government for five years. The government is stable. We are confident of completing our full tenure and fulfilling the aspirations of the people across Maharashtra.”
Fadnavis also reiterated, “BJP will always welcome Shiv Sena in government.”
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray also chided Pawar saying that he says one thing and does another. “He never walks the talk,” Uddhav said.