Mumbai, Jul 17 (PTI) The NCP on Saturday dismissed speculation about warming up to the BJP fuelled by a meeting in Delhi between party chief Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik saying the two parties are like two ends of a river that can never unite and added that Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies were aware of the one-on-one interaction.
During their nearly hour-long meeting, Pawar and Modi held talks on various issues including the Banking Amendments Act and the cooperative sector.
Pawar submitted a letter to PM Modi, in which he has said that although the objectives behind the amendments to the Banking Regulation Act are laudable, they do little to promote the well-being and growth of the cooperative sector.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) tweeted a picture of the meeting between Pawar and Modi.
Addressing a press conference, NCP spokesperson and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik said that AICC general secretary H K Patil was told about this scheduled meeting when he and other Congress leaders met Pawar in Mumbai recently.
“Even Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was apprised of this meeting,' he added.
The Sharad Pawar-led party is one of the constituents, along with the Congress, in the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra. 'The NCP can never join hands with the BJP because both the parties are ideologically different. The BJP and NCP are two ends of a river that cannot come together as long as there is water in the river,' Malik said, adding there is no truth in such rumours.
The definition of nationalism is different for the NCP and the BJP, Malik said.
Ruling out any threat to the MVA government, Malik said it is working fine. 'Some people are giving dates for toppling the MVA government but their prediction will never come true,' he said without taking any names.
'Amendments to Banking Regulation Act would hurt the co-operative sector banks since more powers were given to the RBI and while cooperative banks faced restrictions in power. Cooperation is a state subject...Pawar has been discussing the issue with all the stakeholders,' Malik said.
'He (Pawar) had spoken to the PM over the phone and it was decided to meet whenever he is in Delhi,' he said when asked about the meeting.
The NCP leader said that Pawar also raised the issue of COVID-19 handling and the process of vaccination during the meeting.
“Yesterday, CM Uddhav Thackeray had told the PM that a national policy to stop crowding at public places should be framed,' he said.
Malik, however, rejected reports that Pawar had met BJP leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Delhi.
Notably, the NCP had offered outside support to the BJP to form a government in Maharashtra after the 2014 assembly elections 'in the interest and development of the state'. However, the BJP had come to power with the support of the Shiv Sena.
The saffron allies fell out after the 2019 Assembly elections after the Uddhav Thackeray-led party staked claim to the post of the chief minister. The Sena then joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form the MVA government in November 2019 with Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who is in Delhi, told reporters that he wasn't aware of any meeting between Pawar and Fadnavis.
“There is no politics in Pawar-Modi meeting. There can be discussions on various issues other than politics,' Raut said.
Hitting out at the BJP, Malik compared the saffron party with a 'washing machine'.
'The BJP is like a washing machine where a dacoit can also become a saint,' he said while accusing the BJP of using Central investigating agencies to force leaders of other parties to switch sides.
'NCP leaders don't fear notices by ED because they know they have not done anything wrong. Our leaders haven't met PM Modi or (Union home minister Amit) Amit Shah asking them to stop the probe,' he said.
Currently, senior NCP leader and former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case in line with a CBI probe into allegations of corruption raised against him by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
In his letter to the prime minister, Pawar stated, 'You recently advised the rural youth to engage in micro, small and medium-size businesses along with their farming activities so as to make them ‘atmanirbhar’ under the adverse climatic conditions. The cooperative banks can contribute to this cause since they have the expertise of lending to these first-time borrowers and contribute more than 23 per cent of their advances of rs 3.04 lakh crore to small and micro industries'.
'The growth of this sector is crucial to the holistic development of the country and all efforts should be made to encourage this sector,” the former Union minister added.
The cooperative sector is firmly rooted in Maharashtra and many politicians from the NCP and Congress control several sugar factories and cooperative societies, especially in western Maharashtra, that cover a huge water base.
The BJP has been trying to gain a toehold in the cooperative sector to break the monopoly of the NCP and Congress.
Recently, the Narendra Modi government created the cooperative department which is headed by Home Minister Amit Shah. PTI MR NP NSK NSK