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Birth of Maha Vikas Aghadi: Pawar stepped in later; Chavan, Dalwai, Raut first raised the pitch

While Pawar was quick to promise to play the role of an effective Opposition, Chavan was the first leader from the combine to hint at “secular-minded” parties like Congress and NCP coming together with Hindutva-based Sena to keep the BJP out of power.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune | Published: November 28, 2019 11:04:03 am
maha vikas aghadi, shiv sena-congress-ncp alliance, sanjay raut, prithviraj chavan, sharad pawar, husain dalwai, india news, indian express 162 members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Shiv Sena with NCP and Congress, along with their leaders during headcount in Hayat hotel in Santacruz. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

WHILE SHARAD Pawar is being credited for bringing togetherparties with varied ideologies to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Congress leaders like Prithviraj Chavan and Husain Dalwai, along with Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, were the first to raise the pitch for the need to form such a coalition in the state.

As the Assembly poll results started trickling on October 24, it was clear that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had emerged as the clear winner with 161 seats. The Congress-NCP front was a distant second with 99 seats. While Pawar was quick to promise to play the role of an effective Opposition, Chavan was the first leader from the combine to hint at “secular-minded” parties like Congress and NCP coming together with Hindutva-based Sena to keep the BJP out of power.

“Wait, there will be a big development next week,” Chavan had told The Indian Express on the evening of October 24. Asked if there was a possibility of Congress, NCP and Sena joining hands, he had said, “Why not? We will do everything to stop the BJP, which is indulging in vendetta politics.”

The next day, Sena mouthpiece Saamana — Raut is its executive editor — carried a headline that taunted then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ ‘Mahajanadesh Yatra’ in the run-up to the polls. The headline struck out the words ‘Mahajanadesh’. After Diwali, Saamana slammed Fadnavis for denying that the Sena was promised an equal share of posts, including that of the CM, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Uddhav, too, had then gone on to say “all options are open”.

Amid this, wherever he interacted with the media, Pawar insisted that the mandate for Congress-NCP alliance was to sit in the Opposition. Asked about Uddhav’s remarks, he had said, “This is not the option for us… BJP-Shiv Sena has been given mandate, they should form the government.”

As November dawned and the Sena-BJP verbal war intensified, Chavan led a delegation of Congress leaders to meet party president Sonia Gandhi. “If we do not respond to BJP’s vindictive politics and blatant targeting of Congress leaders, we will be failing in our duty,” he then told Sonia.

Soon after, Congress’ Dalwai wrote to Sonia, underlining the need to keep the “communal” BJP out of power. He went on to meet Sonia and other senior leaders like Gulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel. “Azad and Patel were both positive about tying up with the Shiv Sena. In fact, Azad told me ‘Yaar jaldi karo’,” Dalwai said. He then met Raut in his office, which raised a lot of eyebrows, especially in the BJP camp.
Dalwai told The Indian Express, “I told Soniaji that Sena was a regional party and not a threat to the Congress at a national level. Its Hindutva was nationalistic and not communal as the BJP’s.” Pawar came into the picture after Raut met him at his residence on October 31. But he refused to open his cards. Two weeks later, Pawar met Sonia but claimed that he had not discussed with her a possible tie-up with the Sena.

Amid confusion over Pawar’s statement, Chavan had then said: “Sonia Gandhi has almost agreed to a tie-up with the Sena.” According to Congress leaders, Sonia had entrusted the entire responsibility of stitching the alliance on Pawar.

Downplaying his role, Chavan said: “I don’t want the credit. There was a pressing need to halt the BJP’s gameplan and breathe fresh life into the Congress rank and file in Maharashtra.” Asked about divergent ideologies coming together, Raut said: “Congress leaders, since the formation of the state in 1960, till it was in power last time, have immensely contributed to the development of Maharashtra… parties like the BJP refuse to acknowledge this. The Congress doesn’t talk of finishing off the Sena like the BJP does…”

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