They may not be allies but there is no denying that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders go out of their way to keep Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), especially the party chief Sharad Pawar, in good humour.
Less than a month after Union finance minister Arun Jaitely visited Pawar’s borough, Baramati, and enjoyed his hospitality, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, senior leader and agriculture minister Eknath Khadse marked their attendance at an agriculture exhibition organised by Pawar’s trust in his hometown.
Fadnavis inaugurated the exhibition organised by the Agriculture Development Trust, Baramati, and spent an hour-and-a-half at the venue and shared the dais with both Pawar and his nephew, Ajit Pawar.
Khadse, who spent the last five years taking on the Pawars as the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, in his address, lavished praise on the Baramati model. “Even if we have 10 such trusts, the state’s agriculture scenario will see a transformation,” he said.
BJP’s soft corner for the NCP comes even after the former made corruption by the Congress-NCP one of its main poll planks.
It had used corruption by the earlier government as a major poll plank during the last Assembly elections. The Fadnavis-led government is currently probing the irrigation scam, in which Ajit Pawar and state NCP president Sunil Tatkare face serious corruption allegations.
Political observers see this bonhomie as a clear ‘political signal’ to ally Shiv Sena given that the relations between the saffron allies have been going through a rough patch. “The BJP didn’t anticipate the nuisance that Sena is capable of causing by criticising BJP’s policies and senior leaders hardening their Hindutva stance. This friendship with the NCP is a signal that there continues to be an alternative for the BJP even if the Sena walks out,’’ said political analyst Surendra Jondhale. “There is also the possibility of the Sena getting more aggressive if the BJP doesn’t do well in Bihar and as such the latter is trying to shore up support as well as pre-empt an attack from the Sena.” In the long run, BJP leaders admit off the cuff that their party’s growth will come at the cost of the Sena. So, while the chief minister insists that it will partner with the Sena in the BMC polls and complete its five-year term with its ally, its senior leaders continue to court NCP.
“Pawar shares good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as with senior BJP leaders. What’s the harm if the chief minister goes to Baramati. While the Sena is our ideological partner, it has given us a lot of headache. NCP is not our opponent like the Congress and there is always the possibility of having some understanding with that party,’’ a senior BJP leader said.