NCP Chief Sharad Pawars suggestion to name the Bandra-Worli Sea Link after Rajiv Gandhi has not gone down well with his partymen,who view it as a gesture of submission in the run-up to the Assembly polls.
The Congress,unsurprisingly,took a kindlier view of Pawars suggestion,with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan immediately accepting it at the inaugural ceremony on Tuesday in the presence of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Pawars suggestion,incidentally,coincided with the NCPs central team,led by P A Sangma,announcing in Mumbai on Tuesday that the party was looking forward to an alliance with the Congress for the ensuing Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
Pawars gesture is now being viewed by some party functionaries as a sycophantic attempt to get closer to the Congress after the NCPs lacklustre performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
At a time when both the Congress and the NCP are preparing for the Assembly elections and some Congress leaders are opposing an alliance with the NCP,Pawar sahebs gesture is highly unbecoming of a leader of his stature, a senior NCP functionary told The Indian Express on Wednesday. It is as if he is willing to do anything to please Sonia Gandhi.. It would have been all right if some other leader from the NCP made the suggestion. But not him.
He further said that Pawar had sent out a wrong signal to NCP cadres across the state. A few months ago,he was being projected as a prime ministerial candidate and was talking about possible realignments of parties after the Lok Sabha elections, the NCP leader said. Now,the NCP cadres feel that the party,which had emerged as the single largest party in the 2004 Assembly polls,has to play second fiddle to the Congress, rued the leader,adding that Pawars move would demoralise cadres. It is as if the NCP is preparing to somehow win the attention of Sonia Gandhi and get into her good books. I wont be surprised if this revives speculation about the NCP being merged with the Congress, he said.
Meanwhile,the Shiv Sena and the BJP have opposed Rajivs name for the sea link. Former chief minister Manohar Joshi claimed that when the foundation stone for the sea link was laid during the Sena-BJP regime,it had been decided to name it after Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. State BJP chief Nitin Gadkari echoed his sentiments,saying that it was improper to name the sea link after Rajiv Gandhi. MLC and BJP general secretary Vinod Tawde said that Pawars gesture was a sign of political helplessness.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan,however,justified Rajivs name for the sea link and countered the claims of Sena-BJP leaders.
My information is that there was no such decision by the government (to name the sea link after Savarkar) and hence there should be no controversy about it, he told reporters in Nagpur on Wednesday.
Sharad Pawar suggested Rajiv Gandhis name for it,which I immediately seconded. Rajivji was born in Mumbai and had stayed here too. The issue is being unnecessarily politicised. Chavan also countered Gadkaris claim that the project was conceived during the Sena-BJP regime.
(with inputs from Nagpur)