Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday claimed that Nationalist Congress Party’s Ajit Pawar had approached him and the Bharatiya Janata Party of his own volition last month and even made it seem like his uncle, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, was in agreement, the Hindustan Times reported.
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 had admitted last week that he was aware his nephew Ajit Pawar was in contact with Fadnavis when negotiations between the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress were under way to form government in Maharashtra. But, he had added, he did not think Ajit Pawar would rebel.
“We did not try to poach MLAs or split any party for around a month after the results were announced until Ajit Pawar approached us,” Fadnavis said in an interview to a Marathi channel on Saturday. “About a couple of days ahead of the swearing-in on November 23, Ajit Pawar came to us saying his entire party was ready to join hands with the BJP to form the government. He even made a few party MLAs to speak to me.”
Fadnavis added: “He told us that Sharad Pawar was aware of the move. We knew it was a gamble, but a gamble is inevitable in politics, though it failed in this case.”
The senior BJP leader also alleged that Sharad Pawar had hid parts of his conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Whatever [Sharad] Pawar told the media was just a part of the conversation. He has hid half of the conservation between them,” Fadnavis said, adding that it would “not be proper” for him to disclose the details. “However, it would be known to the public at the right time. I will speak about that at an appropriate time.”
Pawar had met Modi on November 20 when discussions between the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress for an alliance were underway. In an interview with a Marathi news channel last Monday, Pawar had rejected reports that 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.
But in another interview the next day, he said there was no offer from the prime minister for the president’s post or a Cabinet portfolio to Sule. Dismissing speculation about the agriculture portfolio being offered to Sule, 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 political crisis
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena, which had ruled the state for the last five years had formed a pre-poll alliance, but fell out after the Assembly election results were declared on October 24. The BJP had emerged the single-largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member Assembly, the Sena came second with 56 seats. The Nationalist Congress Party was able to secure 54 seats, and the Congress 44.
Despite having enough seats to form a government together, the two allies bickered over power-sharing – the chief minister’s post and Cabinet portfolios – resulting in the Shiv Sena starting negotiations with the ideologically different Congress and NCP instead.
With no outcome in sight then, the Centre imposed President’s Rule in Maharashtra on November 12. The Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP continued negotiations to form an alliance, and on November 22 evening, Sharad Pawar announced that Uddhav Thackeray had been unanimously chosen to head the new government. Thus, the oath-taking ceremony of Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar early on November 23 came as a surprise.
The Sena-NCP-Congress moved the Supreme Court against the Maharashtra governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form government. While the top court ordered a floor test to be conducted on Wednesday, Fadnavis resigned as the chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy on Tuesday. Fadnavis conceded that the BJP had failed to form the government, and Ajit Pawar came back to the NCP.
The three-party alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress staked claim to form the government. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took oath as chief minister on November 27. Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi won the floor test in the Assembly on Saturday with 169 votes. The halfway mark in the 288-member Assembly is 145. The BJP legislators had walked out in protest.
Fadnavis was then elected the leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly last Sunday, bringing to an end an over a month-long political crisis in the state.