The Nationalist Congress Party, including its president Sharad Pawar, deny it vehemently. But the Union Agriculture Minister’s visit to Matoshree to call on Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on Sunday evening has sat the cat among the pigeons.
Ostensibly, it was to persuade Balasaheb to lay off Australian cricketers who will be playing some of the matches in Mumbai during the coming third season of the Indian Premier League. But many believe the visit was not
this single point agenda or so innocent.
Among them is known Pawar-baiter and Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who says whatever Pawar might say (see interview), the ‘timing was all wrong’.
“He might say it was for the IPL. But don’t forget, the visit came just a day after Rahul Gandhi had put the Shiv Sena in its place and after he was cornered by the Congress Working Committee over price rise. So the politics is all in the timing, even if they did not discuss anything but the IPL.”
Deshmukh, though, says the Congress is not worried because Pawar can do nothing. “Even if he is trying to send us a message, he and his party will be completely finished if they now seek a realignment and particularly one with the Shiv Sena. This is not the Sharad Pawar of old. He can now do nothing. So these are all just empty threats.’’
Deshmukh says Pawar need not have gone personally to Matoshree, even if he was so concerned about the IPL. “He could have sent the BCCI chief Shashank Manohar and followed it up with a call to Thackeray and the purpose would have been served.”
But NCP national general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Govindrao Adik disagrees. “Manohar does not carry the weight that Pawar does. Thackeray would not even have given Manohar the time of the day. Pawar had to accompany him because the IPL is actually Sharad Pawar’s product and he had to do whatever he could to protect it from being derailed.”
Asked if Pawar’s visit had not legitimised Thackeray at a time when he was being marginalised by everybody including the BJP, Adik said, “Thackeray has been gheraoed in the past as well. But Pawar did not feel the need to visit him those times. However, the IPL is his baby. And he had to rescue it.”