NCP chief Sharad Pawar Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi told him on November 20 that they should “work together”, but he declined saying it “will not be possible from the political point of view”.
His meeting with the Prime Minister took place three days before nephew Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP to prop up the short-lived government of Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra.
In an interview to Marathi news channel ABP Majha which was telecast Monday evening, Pawar, responding to a question whether he was offered the President of India’s post by Modi, said: “That’s not true. But an offer was made to make Supriya Sule a minister at the Centre and form a joint government of the NCP and BJP in Maharashtra.”
On November 20, Pawar met Modi in his chamber in Parliament House when talks between the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena on forming an alliance had gained momentum.
In the interview, Pawar said he met Modi to discuss farmer distress in Maharashtra following unseasonal rain. “When I was about to leave after discussing the agrarian crisis, especially after my visit to Vidarbha, the Prime Minister asked me to wait and said he will be happy to work together with me in the country.”
Pawar said he told Modi this was not politically possible for him. “I told him that our personal relations will remain intact but it will not be possible from the political point of view to work together. The PM then asked, kyun nahin (why not)? The PM said the stand taken by NCP on issues like development, farm distress and industries were similar to ones raised by BJP. Our stands are not different, where is the difference of opinion?... The PM told me that we should work together in the country and your experience will benefit the government.”
“I told him that on national issues, my party will work with his government and will not oppose it for the sake of opposing. We will take a positive stand on national issues.” He said he told Modi that he runs a small party which has more following in Maharashtra than in the country. “We have charted our own course,” he said.
On Ajit Pawar’s rebellion, Pawar said: “There was a feeling among a section of society that Ajit Pawar’s rebellion had my support. However, by afternoon, when I held a press conference with Uddhav Thackeray, a strong message went out that it did not have my support. After which, the MLAs who had gone with Ajit Pawar started returning.”
He said Ajit Pawar realised that the family did not approve of his action and he came to apologise. “Ajit Pawar told me that he had made a mistake and was ready to suffer the punishment,” he said, adding that the general view among NCP workers was that Ajit Pawar should be pardoned since he had accepted his mistake. Pawar said it was a conscious decision to keep Ajit Pawar out of the swearing-in of the Uddhav government.
Reacting to Pawar’s remarks in the interview, BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said: “It is unfortunate that a discussion between two leaders has been made public... I don’t want to deny or confirm it, but such conventions are out of place.”
Pawar’s November 20 meeting had raised eyebrows in Maharashtra. It was widely speculated that the NCP chief’s meeting was an attempt to forge an alliance with the BJP. Three days after the meeting, Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister with Ajit Pawar as Deputy CM. On November 25, when the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly the next day, Ajit Pawar resigned and, hours later, Fadnavis too quit, clearing the decks for the government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.