State politics heated up again with Nationalist Congress Party Minister Dr Jitendra Awhad declaring that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) would return to power and NCP President Sharad was keen to continue Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister again after 2024 Assembly polls.
Contending that it was Pawar's "secret desire" which he had expressed in close circles, Dr Awhad said at a party meeting in Navi Mumbai that the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress would once more unitedly contest the 2024 Assembly elections and come back to power, relegating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Opposition benches again.
The NCP Minister's statement assumes significance, coming months after Sena MP and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut had also said the same, but it was scornfully ignored as a "tall claim".
Dr Awhad's statement was greeted with smugness by Sena leaders, the Congress smelt a rat while the BJP was left rattled though it has not yet reacted.
This time, the state Congress Working President Arif Naseem Khan made it clear that the MVA experiment was born (in 2019) owing to the peculiar political situation then and functions on the basis of a Common Minimum Programme.
"The Congress is growing stronger in the state, particularly at the grassroots level. Our firm endeavour is to win the maximum seats and also elect our CM," Khan told IANS.
However, he declined to comment on Dr Awhad's statement or whether the party would adopt a solitary path and said the "Congress will take a call depending on the political situation in 2024".
Sena's farmer face and Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission Chairman Kishore Tiwari - accorded a MoS status - said Pawar's sentiments are "a testimony to the performance of CM Thackerayji, as compared with the dismal tenure of BJP with Devendra Fadnavis as CM."
"It is also the people's open wish to vote the MVA back with a thumping 200-plus seats in 2024. The masses have not forgotten the treatment the BJP meted out to the farmers, the inflation, fuel prices, unemployment, false promises and hounding of non-BJP governments by letting loose central agencies on them," Tiwari told IANS.
Despite repeated attempts, top BJP leaders were not available for their comments, but sources indicated a sense of despair as the party repeatedly missed its "deadlines" predicting the MVA collapse in the past 25 months.
Coming barely 10 days after the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote "RIP" for the Congress-led UPA, the Congress was buoyed by the Sena-NCP's response then.
Now, the Congress anticipates the possibility of new permutations and combinations emerging with "turncoats" defecting from the BJP ranks, both in the state and national levels, prompting the party (Congress) to adopt a wait-and-watch policy.
For the present, despite the occasional hiccups, things appear hunky-dory among the three allies and cracks are sealed, at least, temporarily with high-level confabulations - like the recent ones between Sanjay Raut with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi - that ensure the three-tyre government remains accident-free.
A senior NCP leader reiterated that the priority for the 3-parties is "to ensure the BJP is kept out at any cost," starting with the upcoming civic elections in early-2022, followed by the 2024 Lok Sabha and then the 2024 Assembly polls.
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