NCP president Sharad Pawar met BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur on Saturday. Both sides have ruled out any political significance to the meeting, which comes at a time when the friction between Maharashtra’s ruling and Opposition parties has increased in the wake of the Ram Navami violence in Sambhajinagar.
“Pawar had come to inspect a proposed site for setting up a sub-branch of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Vidarbha region. It was at the behest of Gadkari that the project was being taken up to help sugarcane farmers in the region,” said a press note issued by a close aide to the Union minister. The NCP also indicated that the two leaders had discussed developmental issues.
Pawar, who is on a two-day Vidarbha tour, was accompanied by senior NCP leader Praful Patel, former home minister Anil Deshmukh and former finance and home minister Dilip Walse-Patil.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was not present during the Pawar-Gadkari meeting though he was also in Nagpur. A source in the BJP leader’s office said, “Fadnavis had other meetings since morning. Since the Pawar-Gadkari meeting was about the sugar institute, there was no reason for the deputy chief minister to attend it.”
Pawar also visited the 100-acre land identified for the sub-branch of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute.
The Pawar-Gadkari meeting also came ahead of the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi’s Sunday rally in Sambhajinagar. In the wake of the communal riots after Ram Navami celebrations, Sambhajinagar is under heavy police deployment. But the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena (UBT) are determined to hold the MVA’s first rally after Aurangabad was renamed as Sambhajinagar.
Although the sugar institute was the main agenda, insiders said Pawar and Gadkari might have discussed other issues as well. “Pawar and Gadkari frequently meet. In the recent past they met in Delhi and Pune,” a senior BJP functionary said.
Gadkari had often hosted Opposition leaders including from the NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT) and the MNS for lunch when they visited Nagpur.