Sharad Pawar to BJP-Sena: Hurry up and form government
The Congress and the NCP on Wednesday tried to water down the perception of their interest in government formation in Maharashtra as the Shiv Sena resumed its negotiations with the BJP after antagonistic posturing over the past few days.
While NCP veteran Sharad Pawar held a media conference in Mumbai and asked the BJP-Sena to form the government at the earliest as the state was suffering because of the uncertainty, Congress leaders in Delhi contemptuously rejected the possibility of an alternative coalition as the incumbent government has won majority again.
The high command’s purported disinterest has worried Congress MLAs who met in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Sources in the Congress-NCP camp argued that the question of exploring an alternative would arise only if the
Sena formally divorces the BJP.
“It is so far a conjugal tiff. Let the Sena withdraw support from the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and pull out its minister. Let the Sena publicly declare that their alliance with the BJP has fallen apart. Till that happens, how can we even discuss the possibility of a re-alignment?” a top Congress leader told The Telegraph, asserting that the bargaining and shadow-boxing would cease at the altar of power.
The emphasis of Maharashtra Congress leaders, too, was different on Wednesday as they spoke freely about the strong opposition to any understanding with the Sena from an internal lobby led by veteran leader A.K. Antony.
Although not in agreement with his argument, a Congress MLA told this newspaper over phone from Mumbai: “Antony has said that the NCP is a regional party whose concerns are limited to Maharashtra, but the Congress has a national perspective and any ideological compromise would hurt it more in other states.”
Most senior Congress leaders, however, insist that Sonia Gandhi had left the decision to Pawar while making it clear that no direct association with the Sena was possible. They explained that the Congress president’s position was that the party was with the NCP and support would be extended to Pawar, who may or may not align with the Sena.
Some believe there is an element of hypocrisy in this position, caused by the dilemma of ideological incompatibility with the Sena and the MLAs’ insistence on keeping the BJP out of power.
Pawar on Wednesday chose to stress on the BJP-Sena’s inability to form the government. At his media conference in Delhi earlier this week, his focus had been on the serious rift between the long-time allies.
Sensing that the Sena was still agreeable to a deal with the BJP, Pawar said: “They should form the government at the earliest and not allow the state to slip into a constitutional crisis. They should allow us to play the role of the Opposition as mandated by the people.”
Asked about the possibility of the Congress-NCP backing a Sena-led government, Pawar said: “Where is the question? They have been in alliance for 25 years, and they will come together sooner or later. If we had the numbers, we wouldn’t have waited for anyone. The Congress and the NCP (together) didn’t cross the 100 mark.… We will work as a responsible Opposition.”
He insisted that the meetings with Sena leader Sanjay Raut were not for government formation but to discuss general politics in a friendly manner.
Asked about Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s meeting with Union road transport and highways minister and BJP senior Nitin Gadkari in
Delhi, Pawar said: “Ahmed Patel is a very responsible person. He won’t go for a political purpose. I am 100 per cent convinced that if he met Gadkari, it must have been about roads.”
Pawar said the Congress and the NCP were together and would take a collective decision. “The Congress and the NCP fought the election in an alliance. We want all decisions about the political situation to be taken through consensus.”
Congress leaders also took care not to criticise the NCP for showing interest in the volatile situation caused by the BJP-Sena tussle.