Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday had a over 50-minute meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also wrote a letter to Mr. Modi the same day, detailing the problems with the newly formed Ministry of Cooperation, which is headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“Rajya Sabha MP Shri Sharad Pawar met PM Narendra Modi,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted along with a photo of the two leaders’ meeting.
The timing of the meeting has raised many questions. It comes two days ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament and when there are reports of a strain in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, of which the NCP is a key constituent. Earlier this week, Mr. Pawar’s meeting with political strategist Prashant Kishor triggered a rumour that he might be a candidate for the presidential election scheduled for next year. Mr. Pawar had denied the speculation.
NCP spokesperson and senior leader Majeed Memon said unnecessary and baseless yarns were being woven about the Pawar-Modi meeting. The meeting, he stated, should not be viewed from the political perspective alone.
“I do not understand why eyebrows are being raised about today’s meeting. A leader of Mr. Pawar’s stature has many issues to discuss and resolve. Should he not meet the Prime Minister of India, just because he happens to be on the other side of the political fence?” he remarked. Mr. Pawar raised various issues from the Ministry of Cooperation, farmers’ agitation, Maratha reservation and so on, he added.
Cooperative banks issue
In his letter to Mr. Modi, Mr. Pawar flagged concerns at the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act that seeks to bring in changes in the functioning of the “cooperative banks”.
The letter pointed to the constitutional provisions that clearly lay out that the cooperative societies come solely under the purview of the State governments. To reinforce Mr. Pawar’s argument, it quoted Supreme Court judgements on the matter. The amendments, he said, were in conflict with the provisions of the State Cooperative Societies Act.
“I firmly state that the Amended Act does little to promote the well-being and growth of the cooperative sector as envisaged by the government,” the letter stated.
The growth of the cooperative sector was crucial for the holistic development of the country. It was also attuned to Mr. Modi’s own call for “atmanirbhar Bharat” since the cooperative banks have the expertise of lending to the first-time borrowers and contributing more than 23 per cent of their total advances to small and micro industries, it said.