Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said that he was aware that his nephew Ajit Pawar was in contact with Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis when negotiations between the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress were under way to form government in Maharashtra. But, he told NDTV, he did not think Ajit Pawar would rebel.
The NCP chief said that Ajit Pawar may have decided to rebel after a “heated discussion” with Congress leaders on November 22. “Ajit was very, very unhappy at that heated conversation,” he said. “The Congress was demanding extra portfolios. I walked out. Ajit also walked out and told my colleagues I don’t know how we will be able to work tomorrow. That night he had a meeting with Devendra Fadnavis.”
On November 23, Fadnavis staked claim to form the state government and was sworn in as the chief minister with support from Ajit Pawar. However, both Pawar and Fadnavis resigned on November 26 after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test. Pawar has since returned to the NCP.
Sharad Pawar said that a line of communication had already been active between his nephew and Fadnavis. He, however, dismissed speculation that he was aware that the two leaders had planned to form government and said he was shocked to see them taking oath.
The NCP chief added that Ajit Pawar’s portfolio was still under discussion, and did not confirm if he would become the deputy chief minister. The senior Pawar added that a number of party leaders still respected Ajit Pawar and refuted rumours that his nephew was a flight risk.
In an interview with a Marathi news channel on Monday, Sharad Pawar had rejected reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered him the president’s post, adding there “surely was an offer to make Supriya [Sule] a minister in the Modi-led cabinet”. Sule, who is the NCP chief’s daughter, is a Lok Sabha member from Baramati in Pune district.
However, in the interview to NDTV on Tuesday, he said there was no offer from the prime minister for the president’s post or a Cabinet portfolio to Sule. “For the last five years, some of the BJP leaders on many occasions suggest that [Sule] is a competent person, that she should join the process of decision-making and associate with us [BJP] on government but these are all general suggestions,” he said.
Dismissing speculation about the agriculture portfolio being offered to Sule, Sharad Pawar said that the prime minister had only complimented her work in Parliament. On the prime minister’s purported offer to work together, the NCP chief said that he told Modi that the BJP was not “ideologically compatible” with his party.
The veteran politician claimed that it was easier for his party to work with the Shiv Sena than the BJP, adding that the Sena did not bring the Hindutva ideology into governance.
Following the declaration of the Assembly election results on October 24, Sharad Pawar said his party had made up its mind to sit in the Opposition. However, after seeing the Sena become “unhappier by the day because of unfulfilled promises”, they began discussions with the party’s leader Sanjay Raut that was relayed to Uddhav Thackeray.
In a separate interview with the news channel, Sule said that it was the prime minister’s “magnanimity if he made the offer”. “In Maharashtra, personal relationships are very important, even if there are ideological differences,” she said. “But if you hear what Pawar-ji said, ‘I humbly say no’.”
On Ajit Pawar’s rebellion, Sule said that he will always remain her elder brother and a senior leader of the NCP. “He had not joined BJP,” she told ANI. “This is internal matter of our party and family.”