A day after exit polls predicted a big win for the BJP-led NDA and worst-ever tally for the Congress, Sharad Pawar’s NCP Tuesday expressed desire to “see a strong and stable government” at the Centre, setting off speculation of a shift to the saffron camp.
Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader and heavy industry minister Praful Patel said “the BJP will emerge as the largest party” and “we would like to see a strong and stable government.”
After the exit of Trinamool and DMK, the NCP is the biggest ally of the Congress in the UPA. The two parties have been sharing power in Maharashtra since 1999.
When categorically asked if the NCP would join the BJP-led NDA, Patel evaded a direct reply. “We have been a part of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), what we do is not the real issue. The real issue is that the country needs a stable government,” he said.
The remarks have been interpreted as the NCP keeping open the option of a possible understanding with the BJP.
Patel’s “hopes” for a stable and strong government comes hours after another union minister from his party, Tariq Anwar, ruled out a tie-up with the BJP. Incidentally, the BJP’s built its national election campaign around a stable and strong government.
NCP sources, however, pointed out that all tactical decisions would be taken by party chief Pawar and he had, so far, not shown any indication of switching over to the NDA.
Pawar, who in the past has blown hot and cold over Modi, did not attend a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. The agriculture minister, said sources, was also not in regular touch with the Congress brass.
Unlike other many other Congress allies, the NCP would have not much to worry if it were to join hands with the BJP, a section of party feels. “Most of the seats where there is a heavy presence of Muslims, like Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad are represented by the Congress,” said a source. Maharashtra is due for assembly elections in October.