New Delhi, May 26: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), one of the constituents of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, rushed to defend the Chief Minister following the contentious remarks by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Reacting to the Gandhi scion's comment on COVID-19 spike in Maharashtra, the NCP said Thackeray cannot be singled out for the crisis. 'India is the Only Country Where Coronavirus is Exponentially Rising and We are Removing Lockdown', Says Rahul Gandhi.
NCP MP Majeed Memon, while speaking to a news channel, claimed that Gandhi's remarks are being "twisted" by a section of the media to project cracks in Maharashtra-ruling coalition. Memon claimed that the comments were not directed against the Chief Minister.
Gandhi, the former Congress president, stoked a row during his virtual press conference on Tuesday by claiming that his party is only supporting the government in Maharashtra and is not a policy-maker. His remarks gave fodder to the speculations of a rift in the three-party alliance in the state.
"I would like to make a differentiation here. We are supporting the government in Maharashtra, but we are not the key decision maker in Maharashtra. We are decision-makers in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Puducherry. There is a difference between running the government and supporting it," Gandhi said.
Reacting to Gandhi's remarks, Majeed told NDTV that the Congress is part of the state cabinet. "Ashok Chavan, a former Chief Minister is part of the government," he said, while adding that the high population in Mumbai is one the reasons behind the spike in coronavirus cases.
"How can we blame the Chief Minister or those at the frontline?" he asked, while pointing towards the high number of tests conducted across Maharashtra. He also added that the Centre should also be held responsible and accountable for the strategy to contain COVID-19 transmission.
"Rahul Gandhi was not criticising the Chief Minister. His remarks are being twisted to project a crisis in the ruling coalition. Sharad Pawar (NCP president) has categorically stated that the alliance is stable and the Aghadi will complete its entire five-year tenure," Memon added.
Mumbai, with over 30,000 cases of coronavirus, is emerging as one of the global hotspots of COVID-19. The exponentially rising numbers has drawn attack towards the Thackeray government from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - the single-largest party in the state assembly.
Pawar, who was instrumental in stitching the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance to replace the BJP from power, stoked a row with his meeting with the Governor earlier today. After speculations in the media of a likely switch by the NCP, the party was compelled to issue a clarification.
Apart from the NCP, the Shiv Sena also denied the rumours of a rift. "Sharad Pawar and CM Uddhav Thackeray met at Matoshri last evening. The two leaders held talks for one and a half hours. If anyone is spreading news about stability of the govt, it should be considered as their stomach ache. The govt is strong. No worries", senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.