New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched a sharp attack on NCP chief Sharad Pawar but maintained a stoic silence on the Shiv Sena — as a “tribute” to the late Balasaheb Thackeray — in an apparent indication of a possible post-poll truck with the BJP’s erstwhile ally.
Modi’s decision to side-step any criticism of the Sena lends a crucial dimension to the political situation in the state. ‘‘This is the first election in Balasaheb’s absence. I will not say a word against Shiv Sena, it is my tribute to Balasaheb Thackeray,” the Prime Minister said.
A similar suggestion of the possibility of a post-poll tie-up has been recently made by Nitin Gadkari as well but the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had summarily dismissed the suggestion.
At Gondia in Vidarbha, Modi called upon the people to compare their region with that of neighbouring Chhatisgarh and posed a question: “Tell me why Chhatisgarh has moved and Maharashtra lagged behind? Do we want Vidarbha to remain stuck like the NCP’s clock?”
Considering that the promise of a separate Vidarbha is a part of the BJP’s election manifesto, and Modi is seeking an absolute majority from the people and arguing that the time for alliance politics is over, does the logical consequence follow? Will BJP create a separate Vidarbha state?
Vidarbha’s foremost BJP leader and union minister Nitin Gadkari has been pretty emphatic on this issue. ‘‘As a party we are committed to small states. In 2000, we created Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhatisgarh: these states have grown faster than the regions of which they were a part. Vidarbha will be a Marathi-speaking state, so what is the objection to creating another Marathi state,” he has been arguing while accepting that Shiv Sena is opposed to the idea.
Interestingly, NCP leader Sharad Pawar had taken an ambivalent stand on the issue. He has maintained that the people of Vidarbha do not want a separate state, and the NCP is indeed for a united Maharashtra. But he has added a rider that should the people support the demand, then he would have no problems with a separate Vidarbha. This gives him the required flexibility to join hands with the BJP in a post-poll scenario, should such a situation arise.
The separation with the Shiv Sena appears in a fresh light if this game plan of the BJP is taken into consideration. Contesting the polls with Shiv Sena as an ally would never allow the BJP the freedom to carve out a separate Vidarbha, but now if it gets the majority on its own, there is nothing to stop it. At this stage, it does appear far-fetched, but the day of reckoning, October 19, is just two weeks away.
Modi has been almost carpet bombing the two states — Maharashtra and Haryana — and the same theme of asking the people to vote for a BJP government in both the states is dominating. His opponents are getting a dose of his style of tongue lashing with the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar being a favourite target. “You do not have the character to imbibe the qualities of Chhatrapati Shivaji. You were a chief minister here, and you were also the minister for agriculture in UPA what have you done for the people here,” he said.
With the problem of agrarian crisis remaining unresolved in Vidarbha, Pawar has to shoulder the blame for the farmers’ suicides, though he may not be directly responsible for the situation. But the fact that the situation did not change under his watch is now the point of criticism.
“As agriculture minister at the Centre, had you implemented Shivaji’s water management techniques, farmers of Maharashtra would not have committed suicide,” the Prime Minister said at Tasgaon, from where former state Home Minister R R Patil is NCP nominee.
BHoth Tasgaon and Kolhapur, which Modi stormed on Sunday, are considered NCP strongholds. At the Gondia rally, Modi said that the era of alliances is over and asked the people to give the BJP “a full majority” in the Assembly elections. Modi cited examples of the adjoining Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where voters had given the BJP a full majority. “Maharashtra could be the number one state in the country,” he reasoned. But willy-nilly, Modi has accepted the lack of leadership at the state level in the BJP. His observation that he would not have been required to come to Maharashtra had the late Gopinath Munde been alive is not just an emotional comment, but an admission of the reality that the current BJP leadership in the state could not have done it on its own. In Haryana, too he is facing the same situation, and the former chief minister Omprakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal has stepped on the gas in the last few days after his release on bail ostensibly on health grounds.
MUM ON SENA
“I have decided not to say a single word against Shiv Sena. This is my way of respecting Balasaheb Thackeray’s memory. Our bond with Shiv Sena goes beyond politics”
ON FARMER SUICIDES
“If Sharad Pawar had taken the right steps then, the farmers would not have suffered so much”
ON GOVT LOOT
“Is there anything left? They have looted everything. Do you want them to loot Maharashtra again? The Congress has even forgotten Mahatma Gandhi, they only want the (currency) notes with Gandhi on them”
ON FOXY PAWAR
Sharad Pawar chose the Rajya Sabha route for himself but made Praful Patel a scapegoat and fielded him for Lok Sabha polls