Two days after the Congress came down on NCP chief Sharad Pawar for not reining in food prices, the Union minister called on Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday, sending out a message to his critics that he has other options.
On the face of it, Pawar was meeting Thackeray to discuss the Sena’s opposition to the inclusion of Pakistani and Australian players in the Indian Premier League. At the two-hour meeting at Thackeray’s residence, the former BCCI president reportedly requested the Sena chief to give his go-ahead for IPL matches with Australian players.
Pawar was accompanied by BCCI president Shashank Manohar. “We asked him to allow Aussie players to play here. He said he’ll think over it,” Manohar said.
On February 5, the Congress Working Committee had made a strong pitch to Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh that Pawar be stripped off the food and civil supplies ministry for his inability to control price rise. Sources in the NCP said Pawar is in no mood to relinquish the portfolio.
Pawar has an influential position at the Centre with the charge of two ministries. Many Congress leaders see the current price issue as an opportunity to cut him to size.
Analysts see Pawar’s hobnobbing with the Sena as a message to the Congress that he has the option of joining hands with the saffron combine.