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New light on an astonishing political turn in India’s history

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with NCP chief Sharad Pawar during a meeting in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Much water has flowed into the Arabian Sea since the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra by the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, but it remains one of the most astonishing political turns in India’s post independence history. A new book on the whole chain of events, “35 Days: How Politics in Maharashtra Changed Forever in 2019” (HarperCollins) by senior Mumbai journalist Jitendra Dixit, says Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in a famously guarded meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, offered an alliance to the latter as the Shiv Sena was unwilling to give up its demand for sharing the Chief Minister’s post.

Also read: In three months, Maharashtra’s MVA government overcomes political challenges, gets ready to tackle finances

The book goes into the minute details of the five weeks that preceded the MVA’s government formation, but the two stand out details pertain to the Pawar uncle-nephew duo of Sharad and Ajit Pawar. According to the book, when Prime Minister Modi met Mr. Pawar senior in Parliament on November 20, 2019, publicly the meeting was conveyed as being one where the latter asked for help for floods in Maharashtra, whereas some other, political matters were also discussed.

“After finishing the discussion, as Pawar was about to leave from his office, Modi requested him to wait and told him ‘I will be happy if we work together’. Pawar replied, ‘We have good personal relations and it will remain that way but from a political perspective working with you is not possible’,” states the book describing the encounter. On being pressed further, Mr. Pawar reportedly said, “I will oppose you on issues, not for the sake of opposing, but working together is impossible. I run a small party. I have given a direction to my people and I cannot deviate from it,” he said.

While this was revealed in an interview by Mr. Pawar later, the reason why Mr. Ajit Pawar first deserted his uncle is also brought to light in the book. At a meeting of all three MVA parties to hammer out a common minimum programme, while there was no dispute over Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister, the Congress objected to the NCP getting the Deputy Chief Minister’s chair. After a bout of hot words, Mr. Ajit Pawar left the meeting to go to the washroom talking on the phone, followed by some of his loyalists .Within 48 hours, he had extended support and was sworn in as former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s deputy. That Mr. Fadnavis was deceived on the level of support Mr. Ajit Pawar enjoyed among the NCP MLAs was soon apparent and the MVA government was formed.

Also read: Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance focusses on farmers

The book has other interesting details, including sketches of one of the more colourful characters of the set piece, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, and also the fact that the “Maharashtra model” seemed to have caught the imagination of political parties including in the subsequent poll in Jharkhand.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 2:15:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-light-on-an-astonishing-political-turn-in-indias-history/article31544969.ece

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