Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) attempted on Tuesday to widen the distrust between the warring allies, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, with party leaders leaking information of a “secret” meeting between Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. In what is being perceived as a move to exploit the tension between the allies, Pawar confirmed their meeting later in the day. “Uddhav Thackeray and (Shiv Sena MP) Sanjay Raut had come to meet me last week,” said Pawar, speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of NCP’s conclave at Karjat. “During the meeting, I got a feeling that Uddhav wasn’t interested in continuing in the government. He seemed dissatisfied.”
While the Shiv Sena opted not to respond, party sources said that the meeting had taken place on the same day when Thackeray had met Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Mumbai. According to a senior NCP leader, the “current political situation” in Maharashtra was discussed during the meeting.
The rift in the ties between the allies has only widened over the probable induction of Thackeray baiter Narayan Rane in the Maharashtra government. NCP sources said that Thackeray wanted to gauge Pawar’s response should he snap ties with the BJP. But if these sources are to be believed, Pawar played hard ball, asking Thackeray to first take a firm stance before he revealed his party’s position.
Ever since the NCP offered unconditional support to the BJP to form government in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has been wary of NCP’s position. At the conclave, Pawar, however, ruled out supporting either the BJP or the Shiv Sena.
Meanwhile, Pawar also mounted an all-out offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that “autocracy has been on the rise in the Centre”. He said, “The PM came to power calling himself the pradhan sevak (principal servant), but the governance model has now become power-centric. Whenever this happens, there is always scope for corruption to flourish. Over the last three years, there have been instances when democratic values have been compromised,” he said. On the eve of one-year anniversary of demonetisation, Pawar also hit out at the government for derailing the country’s economy. Claiming that the downward spiral of the economy had left a trail of job losses across sectors, the former Union Minister blamed “the government’s flawed economic policies” for the distress.
“Commodities are not getting the fair price due to the distress following demonetisation. The agriculture sector is the worst hit. Investment climate too has slackened, which has adversely impacted the rate of employment,” Pawar claimed. He said, “None of the objectives spelt out while rolling out demonetisation had been achieved. Where is the black money? All numbers seem to indicate that all the demonetised currency has come back into the system.”
Pawar even fired a barb aimed at the upcoming poll in Gujarat. “In the last election, the trader community was in no mood to look beyond Modi. But now it says, ‘Do not take Modi’’s name’. Traders in Gujarat too seem upset,” he said. Pawar, meanwhile, showered praise on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to take over the party chief’s role soon. “He is hard-working and understands issues. He wasn’t consistent previously, but now he has improved on that front too.”
Pawar also continued his tirade against the Maharashtra government over the “shoddy” implementation of the farm loan waiver. “The government only believes in making an announcement, and then advertising it. There isn’t a single day when we do not come across advertisements featuring (Maharashtra CM) Fadnavis and Modi in newspapers. Those sitting in power are the real beneficiaries of the farm loan waiver,” he said.
While urging his own party worker to hit out on the streets more often in protest against the government’s unfair policies, Pawar claimed that crimes against women had been on the rise in Maharashtra and other BJP-led states. He also accused the BJP of muzzling dissenting voices on social media and questioned “lateral appointments” made in the Maharashtra’s CMO.