MNS chief Raj Thackeray finds an ally in NCP leader Ajit Pawarhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/raj-thackeray-finds-an-ally-in-ajit-pawar-5581101/

MNS chief Raj Thackeray finds an ally in NCP leader Ajit Pawar

Former deputy CM bats for inclusion of MNS in Opposition’s grand alliance

Raj Thackeray finds an ally in Ajit Pawar
Ajit Pawar (left) and Raj Thackeray

At a time when senior leaders of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are divided on the inclusion of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in the Opposition grand alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, Thackeray appeared to have found an ally in NCP’s legislative party leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

Speaking to mediapersons in Mumbai on Tuesday, Pawar said: “All secular parties should come together to defeat the BJP and the Shiv Sena. Every political party has its own support base. MNS candidates had secured over a lakh votes (in certain constituencies) even in the last state poll. Personally, I feel that we should involve MNS in the alliance.”

Just as Thackeray has evinced interest in joining the Opposition’s alliance and wants the Congress and the NCP leaders to consider leaving three Lok Sabha seats for his party, there is strong opposition within the Congress, in particular, on joining hands with Thackeray.

Objecting to Pawar’s statement, the Congress said NCP should clarify whether this was the official line of the party. “We will wait for NCP to clarify on the issue,” state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said.

He reiterated the Congress’ position that parties like MNS and AIMIM should not be part of the alliance. “We do not want to have any alliance with parties which believe in divisive politics. MNS does not fit into the Congress ideology of a secular party,” Sawant said.

During an interaction with The Indian Express last month, state Congress president Ashok Chavan had said, “There is no question of any political understanding with Raj Thackeray’s outfit. We are ideologically apart.”

MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande said Pawar seemed to have expressed his personal opinion. “When an official proposal comes, our party chief will react to it. Till then, we cannot say anything about this,” he added.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also said that Pawar’s statement was his personal opinion. “NCP believes that all secular parties should join hands to defeat communal forces. It is in this context that Pawar has made this statement,” he added.

Last month, Thackeray had met NCP chief Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in Mumbai, ostensibly to invite him for his son’s wedding. The meeting lasted two hours during which Raj reportedly asked for Mumbai North East seat for MNS. Sources said that the MNS is also interested in contesting from Thane and Dindori. Going by the ongoing seat sharing negotiations between the Congress and the NCP, these three seats are likely to be a part of the NCP’s quota.

Sharad Pawar, however, has also ruled out a pre-poll pact with Thackeray’s outfit.

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Meanwhile, reacting to Swabhimaani Shetkari Sanghathana leader Raju Shetti’s suggestion that his party would contest on its own, Pawar said that NCP state president (Jayant Patil) should resolve the issues that Shetti is raising to ensure that he is a part of the proposed alliance. With ENS, Pune