Two back-to-back meetings but don't join the dots yet

A day after the meeting between former CM Devendra Fadnavis and the Shiv Sena MP and executive editor of the Sena mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, to discuss the format of an interview, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar held an hour-long meeting on Sunday with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, at the latter’s official residence Varsha.

The farm and labour laws passed by Parliament and signed by the President of India dominated the discussion, given that Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had announced last week that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was in no hurry to implement the new laws in the state.

Pawar is believed to have made a strong case for the government focusing on corona containment while stepping up efforts for the revival of the economy. Further, the NCP chief also emphasised the need for further coordination among the three ruling partners in decision-making and government functioning.

In addition, the Akali Dal’s decision to quit the NDA and actively join the farmers' agitation also came up for discussion. Pawar welcomed the Akali Dal’s move, reminding that yet another of the BJP's oldest allies had deserted the NDA, just like the Shiv Sena had done last year. He also reportedly emphasised the need for all non BJP parties to work together, not just in Maharashtra but also at the national level.

He however, claimed that the people of the state were "unhappy" with the performance of the MVA government and it "would collapse due to its own inaction".

Fadnavis, the leader of opposition in the state assembly, made it clear that his meeting with Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Saturday, which sparked speculation in political circles, was about an interview for 'Saamna'. This is important, especially when the Shiv Sena had snapped ties with the BJP last year after the Maharashtra assembly polls, over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post.

"My meeting with Raut had no political connotations. He had asked to interview me for 'Saamana', and I had agreed. But I set down conditions - the interview would be unedited and I would get to use my own camera during the interview. So we met to discuss the various nitty-gritties," he said. On the other hand, Raut said he and Fadnavis were not enemies and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was aware of the meeting, pre-planned, to discuss the interview schedule. "I met Devendra Fadnavis yesterday (Saturday), to discuss certain issues. He is a former CM. Also, he is the leader of opposition in Maharashtra and the Bihar poll-in charge of the BJP. Our meeting was scheduled, as I wanted to interview him for Saamna. Because of Covid-19 and other reasons, it could not materialise," he said.

"There can be ideological differences but we are not enemies. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was aware of our meeting. We were not sitting in a bunker, it was an open meeting," he added. Raut also spoke on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) pulling out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). "The strong pillars of the NDA were the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal. We were in power and in Opposition, together. The Shiv Sena was forced to exit the NDA, now the Akali Dal has left. They have been with the BJP since 1996. The NDA has got new allies, I wish them all the best. I do not consider it an alliance, as it does not have the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal," he added.

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