Mumbai: Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray faction – UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday claimed that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had assured his party leader Uddhav Thackeray that regardless of any decision that individual NCP leaders took, the NCP as a party will not ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whatever be the pressure on it.
It may be recalled that earlier this week, Thackeray had a 90-minute meeting with Pawar at the latter’s ‘Silver Oak’ residence in Mumbai amid intense speculation of a second ‘political earthquake’ in Maharashtra (following Eknath Shinde’s coup last year) and the possibility of fresh political realignments.
In his weekly column, Rok Thok, published in the Sena (UBT)’s mouthpiece Saamana today, Raut claimed that during their meeting, Pawar had allegedly told Uddhav Thackeray while that nobody wanted to leave the NCP voluntarily, the families of many leaders were being targeted.
“Pawar told Thackeray that if anyone wants to take any personal decision (to leave the NCP and join the ruling BJP), then it is their lookout. But as a ‘party’, we (NCP) will not take the decision to go with BJP,” the Sena (UBT) leader wrote in his weekly article.
He further said that both Thackeray and Sharad Pawar were of the opinion that there was tremendous anger against the present Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena-BJP dispensation and that anybody joining hands with them would be committing political hara-kiri.
Later, speaking to reporters in Nagpur, Raut said that many NCP MLAs are being pressured by central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Pawar family members, too, are under pressure. Both (Maharashtra Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly) Ajit Pawar and (Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew) Rohit Pawar have either faced the heat of central agencies or received threats (to join the BJP). But we (MVA alliance) will not bow before this pressure. Sharad Pawar has said that whatever happens, we will keep fighting,” stated the Sena (UBT) leader.
Raut argued that currently the BJP is working on Season 2, which is causing a dent in the NCP. “In Season 1, the Shiv Sena was split and now in Season 2, the NCP will be split.” Arguing that he had “full confidence” in Ajit Pawar, Raut stated that he was an important leader of the MVA and that the opposition alliance rested on his shoulders.
“There is one question that is being fervently discussed in Maharashtra’s political circles today. What will Ajit Pawar do in the future? The Eknath Shinde faction MLAs are saying that Ajit Pawar will join the BJP-Shinde Sena along with 15 of his MLAs. Pawar himself should issue a full and firm disclosure on this,” said Raut in his column.
“The BJP has already poached 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and formed their government. Now, in the event the Supreme Court disqualified 16 MLAs of the Shinde camp, then the BJP, to stay in power, will try to break the NCP. Therefore, to protect its regime, the BJP is conspiring to break the NCP with the help of ED and CBI,” alleged Raut.
Ajit Pawar had tried to form a three-day short-lived government with the BJP in 2019 soon after the State Assembly election that year. However, after Pawar senior made sure that the NCP did not split, Ajit Pawar had returned to the NCP fold.
However, given his cordial relations with BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, suspicion is rife that Ajit Pawar could be inducted in the event 16 MLAs of the Shinde camp are disqualified – a claim Ajit himself has denied.
Meanwhile, Mumbai BJP city president Adv Ashish Shelar hit out at Sanjay Raut, remarking that the Sena (UBT) leader had a habit of poking noses into other’s affairs.
“How can Sanjay Raut give an opinion on what the NCP wants to say. The question is how much importance is one to give Sanjay Raut? How much value does one assign to his statements?” Shelar said. When asked about the possibility of Ajit Pawar joining the BJP with some NCP MLAs, Shelar said that his party would welcome any support given to it.