Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief
Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief
PTI Photo

Not been asked and not going, was the reaction of Nationalist Congress Party president and former Union minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday on the issue of his going to Ayodhya. "Currently, I am concentrating on coronavirus-related work. It is my priority. I have not received any invitation and I am not going there, he said.

In an interview with The Free Press Journal, Pawar however, clarified he was not against the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, nor was he against the ground-breaking ceremony. ‘’There is no reason for me to oppose the construction of Ram temple, as the Supreme Court has delivered a clear-cut judgment in this regard. As far as our party is concerned, it is no more an issue,’’ he noted.

Pawar observed that only a few people could possibly attend the bhoomi poojan in Ayodhya and others ought to focus on coronavirus.

He also spoke in support of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who in his two-part interview in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, had said an e-bhoomi pujan could be done. The ground-breaking ceremony could be held through video-conference, the CM had said.

ON AIR POWER: Pawar, who was last week appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, said India and China could not be compared when it came to air power. China has more such combat aircraft than India, he said. ‘’When I was defence minister, the then Defence Secretary NN Vohra and I had visited France. If you visit Baramati Exhibition Centre, you will find photographs of Mr Vohra and me with Rafale aircraft. Even though it took so long to procure them, it is quite a powerful aircraft,’’ said Pawar.

‘’We have received the first batch of four Rafales and more will be added soon. As against this, China has more than 1,100 combat aircraft, including Rafale,'' he noted.

INDIA'S NEIGHBOURS: Pawar said the attitude of our neighbours had changed significantly. ‘’Pakistan has been pro-China. Till recently, the BJP had a sympathetic approach towards Nepal, as it was a Hindu rashtra. However, Nepal has turned pro-China. India had sacrificed for the formation of Bangladesh but it, too, is tilting towards China. Therefore, China has turned not just Pakistan, but even countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka against India, ’’ he opined.

In such circumstances, Pawar said, instead of launching strikes, India could focus on resolving the border issue with China through negotiations and diplomatic channels, in view of the latter's strength.

METRO SERVICES: He said the commencement of Metro services in Mumbai would help increase attendance in offices. Also, he observed that the journey of migrants should be facilitated, so that they could resume their duties. "This will help in the revival of industry, as some of the units are operating with 20 to 30 per cent attendance. Lots of industrial units would prefer to remain shut instead of functioning with less workforce,’’ he felt.

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