After the fall of their 80-hour-long government last month, NCP leader Ajit Pawar and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were seen together Sunday at a private event in Solapur. While the meeting sparked speculation, Pawar on Monday said the two leaders had only discussed “hawa-pani (the weather)” during the meeting.
In a stunning turn of events, Fadnavis had on November 23 returned as chief minister propped up by Ajit Pawar, who was made his deputy. Both were sworn in an early morning ceremony, but the government lasted only 80 hours. On November 28, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the chief minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
On Sunday, Ajit and Fadnavis, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, were reportedly seen seated next to each other at the marriage ceremony of independent Karmala MLA Sanjay Shinde’s son in Solapur district. The two leaders were apparently engrossed in a 20-minute discussion.
The meeting assumes significance as while Ajit is apparently seen as a leading contender for the deputy chief minister’s post in the MVA government, sources in the NCP claimed that party chief Sharad Pawar was reluctant to hand over the charge to his nephew.
On Monday, during his first visit to Baramati after taking the oath, Ajit told reporters that he did not discuss politics during his meeting with Fadnavis. “The seating arrangement was such that we had to sit next to each other. But we discussed ‘hawa-pani’,” he told reporters.
The NCP leader, who held a Janata Durbar in his constituency to hear the grievances of the people, also said that there was nothing wrong in political leaders meeting one another during functions and ceremonies.
Responding to a query on the demand to make him the deputy chief minister, Ajit said, “Though the demands are being made, the final decision will be made by party chief Sharad Pawar.” He added that a decision regarding the expansion of the ministry will be taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He, however, did not react to Fadnavis’ claim that it was Ajit who had first approached the BJP leader for forming the government. Last week, Fadnavis told a TV channel that it was Ajit Pawar who approached him to form the short-lived government in Maharashtra.
Claiming that he was not opposed to Ajit becoming the deputy chief minister, NCP leader and minister Chhagan Bhujbal said, “When Ajit Pawar had staged a rebellion, I was in the forefront trying to change his mind, and finally we succeeded. If he becomes the deputy CM, I will welcome it.”
Meanwhile, interacting with BJP leaders and workers in Indapur, Fadnavis said the Sena-Congress-NCP government in the state will not last long. “Sena has gone against the mandate of the people by forming the government with the support of NCP and Congress. It will not last long,” he said.
Fadnavis said BJP had got the highest number of 105 seats, yet could not form the government. “We came in merit by notching up 70 per cent marks, but those who secured 40 per cent marks, joined hands to deny us the honour. Shiv Sena has gone against the mandate of the people,” he said. BJP leaders Harshavardhan Patil and other local leaders were also present at the occasion.