After hour-long discussion with Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar says he will meet her again

The NCP chief says the Shiv Sena has been taking very strong positions against the BJP.

November 04, 2019 08:14 pm | Updated November 05, 2019 01:01 am IST - New Delhi

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. File photo.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. File photo.

The onus of forming a government lies with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance but “can’t say what will happen in future” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday, after meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Mr. Pawar, who has so far maintained that the Congress-NCP alliance numbers will sit in the Opposition, kept the suspense on by stating that he would meet Ms. Gandhi again to discuss the matter.

“The mandate given by the people of Maharashtra to NCP is to sit in the Opposition but you cannot speak about the future,” the NCP chief said.

Though the Congress didn’t comment on Mr. Pawar’s meeting with the party chief, sources claimed Ms. Gandhi has reservations about Sena’s secular credentials.

The NCP chief also maintained that so far Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has not reached out to them with any proposal.

“The government formation discussion has to be with Uddhav Thackeray,” Mr. Pawar said. He also played down his meeting with Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

“He [Mr. Raut] is my colleague from Rajya Sabha and keeps meeting me,” added the NCP supremo.

The meeting between Mr. Pawar and Ms. Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence lasted nearly an hour and was also attended by senior Congress leader A.K. Antony.

He didn’t categorically state if the NCP-Congress was willing to support a Shiv Sena-led alliance in the State but ruled himself out as a contender in Maharashtra’s power play.

“The BJP is responsible for forming the government in Maharashtra as they along with their ally have the numbers. Mr. Uddhav Thackeray or anyone else in the Shiv Sena has not sought the NCP support,” he told reporters.

Mr. Pawar claimed he would be travelling back to Mumbai on Tuesday and consult his colleagues.

He said the Congress-NCP alliance is watching the developments between the BJP and Sena but admitted that Sena was serious about the leadership issue.

He asserted that Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna has been taking very strong positions against the BJP.

“I think the game between the two is serious,” he said, on being asked if Sena’s stance about rotating the chief ministership with the BJP was a ‘bargaining game.’

Mr. Pawar said he briefed Ms. Gandhi about the ‘ground situation in Maharashtra’ but he didn’t share the views expressed by the Congress president.

For the past 12 days, despite being pre-poll allies, the BJP and the Sena are locked in a bitter battle over the issue of rotating the chief ministership of the State during the five-year period.

In the polls, the BJP won 105 seats, Shiv Sena-56, NCP-54 and Congress-44.

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