NCP chief Sharad Pawar meets PM, his party and Congress say stable govt soon

Manoj C G
NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Parliament, Wednesday. (Express photo: Anil Sharma)

ON A day when NCP chief Sharad Pawar injected an element of intrigue into the fluid political situation in Maharashtra when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the latter’s chamber in Parliament, top leaders of both the Congress and NCP on Wednesday expressed confidence that they would form a “stable” government in the state soon.

Speaking to reporters after a marathon meeting of Congress and NCP leaders at Pawar’s residence here, NCP leader Nawab Malik said: “A stable government cannot be formed in Maharashtra without the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena coming together. We will form the government soon. We discussed all those aspects.”

Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said “some aspects of the alliance are still to be discussed.”

Saying that the two parties have “gone into various aspects of formation of an alliance”, he said, “I am sure we will be able to give a very stable government to Maharashtra very soon.”

While the Congress-NCP meeting — to work out the modalities for extending support to the Shiv Sena and forming the government in Maharashtra — could not give a final shape to the three-party alliance, sources in the two parties indicated that the three parties were close to an agreement on both power-sharing and a common minimum programme (CMP).

A government will be in place within the next fortnight, they said. These sources, however, indicated that the issue of giving the chief minister’s post to the Sena for a full five-year-term could emerge as a sticking point. The NCP, which has just two MLAs less than the Sena, is said to be in favour of rotational chief ministership. Sources said the Congress is also keen that the word “secular” finds a mention in the CMP.

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Hours before the Congress-NCP meeting, Pawar met Modi in the latter’s chamber in Parliament. He said he discussed issues related to farmers in Maharashtra and sought the Prime Minister’s urgent intervention.

The meeting between Pawar and Modi lasted for over 30 minutes. As soon as Pawar left, Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah walked into Modi’s Parliament chamber.

The meeting surprised NCP ally Congress, and at least one senior leader questioned the timing.

The NCP supremo tweeted a copy of the memorandum detailing the “havoc” caused by unseasonal rains in Nashik and Nagpur districts and urging the Prime Minister to “initiate massive relief measures and ameliorate the miseries of distressed farmers.”

“This year, the returning monsoon devastated almost every standing crop in major parts of Maharashtra. I brought to notice this alarming situation to the kind attention of Hon PM. During my meeting with @PMOIndia today, I invited him to inaugurate a three-day conference & exhibition at Vasantdada Sugar Institute from 31st Jan to 2nd Feb 2020. The theme of the conference is ‘Sustainability - Innovation & Diversification in Sugar and Allied Industry,” his tweet read.

Hours later, top Congress leaders — Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and K C Venugopal — along with state leaders including Balasaheb Thorat and Prithviraj Chavan met Pawar and NCP leaders Praful Patel, Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, Jayant Patil and Nawab Malik. The leaders discussed the draft CMP prepared in consultation with the Sena.

In the past, Ramesh has been involved in drafting Congress manifestos. He was also present at a meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi held with top party leaders at her residence before they proceeded to meet the NCP leadership.

Earlier in the day, Congress sources were confident that an agreement would be reached with the Sena in a week’s time. They said the Uddhav Thackeray-led party would have to tone down its strident Hindutva agenda. An assurance to that effect may find mention in the CMP, they said. One senior leader said the party would not think twice about withdrawing support to the Sena if it returned to its aggressive Hindutva plank.

Soon after the meeting with the NCP leadership, the Congress leaders met Sonia and apprised her of the developments. Sources said the leaders then met the NCP leadership for a second round of discussions late into the night.