As he headed into a strategy session of his party’s top leaders to take a call on supporting a Shiv Sena-led coalition in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Monday stressed that his party’s stand will be in line with the stance adopted by its alliance partner, the Congress.
“NCP’s decision will be in agreement with Congress, which is our ally. We have not put forth any condition before Shiv Sena,” Pawar told reporters as he walked into the party’s core group meeting at the city’s YB Chavan Centre. When NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik walked out of the meeting after two hours, he repeated this ground rule since the “two parties had contested elections together”.
“We are waiting for Congress’s CWC. We have been informed that Congress will take a decision after discussions with its senior Maharashtra leaders at 4 pm. Till then, we will not take a decision,” he said.
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Sharad Pawar has already had a detailed round of discussions with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last week when the two leaders discussed the possibility that the Sena could divorce its partner of three decades over the chief minister’s chair.
There is a section in the Congress leadership that believes the party should not ally with the Shiv Sena, given their “huge ideological differences”. The Congress put off a final call on support to the Sena and the two parties agreed not to shut this possibility.
But they had to work on the optics. In his media interactions after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar repeatedly stressed that the mandate of the NCP-Congress alliance was to sit in the opposition. In Delhi, he did, however, add that he could, however, “not say what will happen in the state”.
Over the next week, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray dug in his heels and refused to work with its pre-poll alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party, who he alleged, was bent upon trying to prove him to be a “liar” over a rotational chief minister. The BJP eventually declined the offer from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The second invite came to the Sena on Sunday.
Within the next 24 hours, the Sena appeared to meet the NCP’s first condition when Union Minister Arvind Sawant announced his exit from Narendra Modi government on Monday morning.
Former Union Minister and senior NCP leader Praful Patel stressed the political situation in the state is changing. “We will discuss our strategy and other aspects in the meeting called by Pawar saheb. However, forming of government and with whom is a serious issue. We are yet to arrive at a decision,” said Patel.
NCP leaders have said that there should be a common minimum programme for governance to safeguard the interest of farmers, minorities and backward classes. The NCP wants the common minimum programme to speak about reservation for Muslims in education and jobs and complete loan waiver for farmers. The Congress leadership has also conveyed it to the Sena that it would not approve of any pro-Hindu posturing by the government.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut referred to the demand for a common minimum programme. “Sharad Pawar and Congress want that we should form the government which should run on a common minimum programme (CMP). There is a need for it today. We are working towards it,” Raut told reporters here.
In the recently held state Assembly elections, the BJP and Shiv Sena have 105 and 56 seats, respectively. The NCP has got 54 seats, while the Congress secured 44 seats in the 288-member state Assembly. If Congress comes on board, the tally of the three parties — Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – will go up to 154 seats. The halfway mark is the legislative Assembly is 145 seats.