Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar on Sunday reiterated that his party will not align with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under any circumstances. The statement came after Maharashtra’s political circles began speculating about his meeting the day before with his nephew Ajit Pawar, who holds the position of the State’s Deputy Chief Minister.
Visuals of Mr. Sharad Pawar arriving at the residence of a businessman at Koregaon Park area in Pune around 1 p.m. on Saturday were aired by regional news channels here. While Pawar Sr. left by around 5 p.m., his nephew, who heads the group of rebel MLAs of the NCP, was seen leaving the premises in a car at 6.45 p.m. while apparently trying to avoid cameras.
Mr. Sharad Pawar explained that his meeting with Mr. Ajit Pawar was simply a family matter and shouldn’t be overanalysed.
“I want to tell you a fact that he is my nephew. What is wrong with meeting my nephew? If a senior person in a family desire to meet another family member, there should not be any issue with that,” he said.
Speaking at Sangola in Solapur district, the 82-year-old leader said that some “well-wishers” are trying to persuade him, but he will never align with the BJP. “As national president of NCP, I am making it clear that my party (NCP) will not go with BJP. Any association with BJP does not fit in NCP’s political policy,” he said.
“Some of us (Ajit Pawar faction) have taken a different stand. Some of our well-wishers are trying to see if there can be any change in our stand. That is why they are trying to have a cordial discussion with us,” he said.
He asserted that people of Maharashtra will hand over the reins of the State to the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Leaders weigh in
Until Mr. Sharad Pawar addressed the issue, political leaders in the State had their own take on it.
NCP MLA Rohit Pawar, the grandnephew of Mr. Sharad Pawar, said he was not aware of Saturday’s meeting. However, if such a meeting had happened, there was ‘nothing wrong in maintaining communication in a family’, he added.
Meanwhile, NCP State president Jayant Patil stated that he was not informed about the details of the conversation that transpired between the party supremo and Mr. Ajit Pawar.
“It was not a secret meeting. I went with Pawar Saheb to a common acquaintance[’s house] and left early. I am not aware of what transpired later,” he said.
Mr. Patil said that recently his brother had received a notice from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seeking information about a company and four days ago, his brother went to the Central agency’s office and submitted all the details he was aware of. “It is completely wrong to link the ED notice to Saturday’s meeting,” he said.
When asked about the rumours of him joining the Ajit Pawar faction, the State president said that he has already made his stand clear that he was loyal to Mr. Sharad Pawar.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut attempted to downplay the significance of the alleged ‘secret’ meeting and suggested that the seasoned octogenarian leader might have invited his nephew to participate in the forthcoming Opposition bloc INDIA meeting scheduled for August 31 and September 1 in Mumbai.
“No one is happy in the Eknath Shinde government. People are disappointed with the government and even Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar are unhappy. If (former Pakistan Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi can meet, why can’t the Pawars? Jokes apart, Mr. Sharad Pawar is expected to clear his stand in a few days. Mr. Sharad Pawar might have told Mr. Ajit Pawar to come back (to Maha Vikas Aghadi) as he did after the early morning swearing-in (2019 with Fadnavis as CM). Anything can happen in politics,” Mr. Raut said.
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed his lack of awareness about any such meeting. “I cannot provide additional information beyond what you already know,” he said.