PUNE, Feb 22 (PTI): Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday that the BJP’s attempt to form a government with his nephew and NCP leader Ajit Pawar had one benefit as it ended the President’s Rule in Maharashtra in 2019.
His remarks prompted deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to assert that the NCP chief should also explain why the President’s Rule was imposed in the state in the first place after the 2019 assembly polls.
Addressing a press conference at Pimpri-Chinchwad, Sharad Pawar said that had the exercise not happened, the President’s Rule would have continued in the state.
He was replying to a question about Fandavis’s claim that the formation of the government with Ajit Pawar had the backing of the NCP chief.
“There was an attempt to form a government. One benefit of that exercise was that it helped to lift the President’s Rule in Maharashtra and everyone has witnessed what happened after that,” he.
Asked if he was aware of the formation of such a government and why Ajit Pawar is tight-lipped on the issue, the NCP chief wondered if there was a need to speak about it.
“I just said that had this kind of exercise not happened, would the President’s Rule have been lifted? Had the President’s Rule not been lifted, would Uddhav Thackeray have been sworn in as the chief minister?” he asked.
In one of the biggest political surprises in Maharashtra, then Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had sworn in Fadnavis as chief minister and Ajit Pawar as deputy CM in an early morning ceremony on November 23, 2019.
But the government lasted just three days, after which Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister with the backing of the NCP and Congress.
Asked if he was hinting that he was aware of the developments, the NCP chief quipped, “A person recently said that one person (Sharad Pawar) is responsible for anything that happens in Maharashtra.”
Speaking on the Election Commission’s decision to recognise the Eknath Shinde-led group as the real Shiv Sena, Pawar said differences are common in politics but it has never happened in the country that a party’s name and symbol were “snatched away” by misusing power.
“When there was a split in the Congress, two entities named Congress (I) and Congress (S) emerged. I was the Congress (I) president and Indira Gandhi was the chief of Congress (I). That time, I had the right to use the Congress’ name. In today’s scenario, the party’s name and its symbol have been given to others. Such a thing never happened in the history of India,” said the veteran politician.
Citing his experience, the NCP chief said that whenever there is “excessive misuse of power” and attempts are made to suppress a party, the public stands by that party.
“I recently travelled to many districts and found that though leaders have left the Shiv Sena, the staunch Shiv Sainiks (party workers) are still with Uddhav Thackeray and it will be proved in the elections,” he said.
“Who made the decision? Was it (Election) Commission, or someone who is guiding the Commission? Such decisions were not made in the past. The role of a big power behind this cannot be ruled out,” he said.
The NCP refused to comment on what could be the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter, saying, “It is the judiciary, and we believe in the judiciary.”
On former governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s interviews, which sparked controversies, Sharad Pawar said he is happy that Koshyari has quit. “In Maharashtra, several governors came and everyone elevated the dignity of the governor’s position but there is only one exception to that list and that is Koshyari,” he said.
Asked about Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut’s ‘threat to life’ allegation and Congress leader Ashok Chavan’s spying claims, Pawar said the prevailing situation in the state is not good.
“Those who have the responsibility of the state’s law and order should keep a watch on the situation and conduct a thorough investigation,” he said.
About the National Investigation Agency’s claim in the Bombay High Court that Gautam Navlakha, one of the accused in the Elgar Parishad case, was in touch with Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, Pawar said he cannot speak on the issue as the matter is sub judice.
“I have read about the case. According to me, there can be ideological differences, but I do not think it is good to term someone anti-national just because the person’s ideology is opposite,” he said.
Before the press conference, Pawar took part in an election meeting in Pimpri-Chinchwad in support of NCP’s candidate Nana Kate, who is contesting the bypoll in the Chinchwad constituency against BJP’s Ashwini Jagtap.
Referring to the NCP chief’s remarks, Deputy CM and BJP leader Fadnavis said he should also explain why the President’s Rule was imposed in Maharashtra in the first place after the 2019 assembly polls.
The Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray and the BJP had fallen apart after the 2019 state polls over the post of the chief minister. Thackeray then joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form the government under the banner of the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Fadnavis said, “If Pawar has explained about the lifting of the President’s Rule, then he should also explain on whose instructions it was imposed in the first place. Who asked to impose it, why it came into effect are the questions he should also answer.”
The deputy CM added, “If he (Pawar) can clarify these issues, then all links will be connected and people will come to know the exact timeline of events. He himself should reveal more details.”