A fresh political row erupted after Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was keen for an NCP-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government in Maharashtra after the October 2019 Assembly polls threw up a fractured verdict.
Pawar referred to his meeting with the PM on November 20, 2019, at the release of a coffee table book, "Ashtavadhani" launched by The Indian Express Group's 'Loksatta' Marathi daily, and released by Bharat Force MD Baba Kalyani, as part of the NCP supremo's 81st birthday celebrations.
At that time, Pawar had confirmed how Modi wanted NCP-BJP to "work together" and even offered a central Cabinet berth to his daughter and Baramati MP Supriya Sule.
"There was a discussion about an alliance... I had told the PM right in his office that it was not possible... I would not like to keep them in the dark," Pawar recalled the incident.
NCP National Spokesperson and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik endorsed the statement saying it happened in Parliament House and he was also present then.
"Yes... There was an offer from the PM and we discussed it in our party and decided against it... Then Pawar Saheb conveyed it to the PM," Malik said.
Pawar felt that the BJP offer may have come as there were frictions between the Congress-NCP at that time, but the Shiv Sena had come forward for the three-party alliance which was ultimately sworn-in as the Maha Vikas Aghadi government headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on November 28, 2019.
On whether the NCP chieftain -- just three days after his meeting with PM -- had 'sent' his nephew Ajit Pawar to form the 80-hour long, two-legged government sworn-in early morning with BJP's Devendra Fadnavis as the CM, Pawar quipped: "If that was so, then I would not have left the job incomplete!"
Reacting, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that there was "complete transparency" at that time when the three parties were finalising the nitty-gritties of the government formation with nail-biting political suspense.
"We all were aware of who's talking what and with whom... We even had knowledge of what was happening on the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar front... Later, he and other MLAs returned to the fold," said Raut with a sly glint.
"The BJP had made this offer, but we know about it... In fact, they were desperate to come to power at all costs and ready to join hands with any party... But they did not succeed," Raut added.
However, in a guarded response, Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar said that certain things may have happened owing to political exigencies at that time, but wondered "why the issue was being raised now".
The BJP suffered one of its biggest political setbacks in November 2019 when it failed to take along Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on the issue of power-sharing and virtually called him a 'liar' publicly.
Simultaneously, there were backdoor efforts to woo Thackeray, even through middle-of-the-night phone calls from central BJP leaders, attempts to lure away Sena-NCP legislators, etc.
Pawar recalled that Thackeray changed his position as "the BJP did not honour what was agreed upon between them", and finally the NCP decided to back the Sena chief as the CM.
Giving full marks to Modi for putting in a lot of hard work to complete any task, attention to the administration, strongly implementing policies in his own style, Pawar said "if the problems of the masses are not solved, there will be no impact, which is where he lags".
Regarding the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Pawar predicted a '50-50' chance and the manner in which the PM has announced many projects indicates the BJP could face a serious situation there.
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