Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar in Baramati on Saturday, even as relations between allies in the state, BJP and Shiv Sena, sour. While chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said there is no political motive behind the meeting, many view it as a sign of a change in Maharashtra politics.
On Friday, the Sena mouthpiece Saamana again attacked the government. “The citizens are the ultimate decision-makers. It is time for politicians to shed arrogance that voters will always give you unstinted support,” said the editorial, seen as the view of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Friday also saw Sena’s Sanjay Rathod, minister of state for revenue targeting senior cabinet minister, BJP’s Eknath Khadse, saying the latter should have faith in him. “I am not interested in just flaunting my official vehicle. I am eager to work for this state, but Khadse is not allowing me to do so,” Rathod said.
The BJP minister for public works and transport, Vijay Deshmukh, alleged his Sena seniors, ministers Diwakar Raote and Eknath Shinde, were not delegating enough powers to him.
With this backdrop, the question arises whether the Modi-Pawar meeting on Saturday will pave the way for the BJP and NCP to come together? Will the camaraderie between the two leaders help NCP remain a relevant player in Maharashtra’s politics and will this help Pawar stop desertions from his party?
Insiders believe it is certainly the beginning of the process. The last time Modi visited Baramati, he campaigned against the Pawars during the Assembly polls and called the NCP a ‘naturally corrupt party’. This time, Modi will have lunch with Pawar and address a joint rally.
The camaraderie between the Modi and Pawar means a number of things: from keeping Sena on a tight leash, to helping NCP keep its cadre enthused and remaining relevant in state politics. The friendship could also mean the BJP-ruled state government will go slow on the probe into corruption allegations against senior NCP leaders, including Pawar’s nephew Ajit.
“The instability in the Sena-BJP government gives us hope. Such a meeting ensures the message is clear enough to the Sena camp that the NCP will continue to remain an option for the BJP,” said a city NCP leader, not wishing to be named. This arrangement, the leader said, will help both NCP and BJP. “It keeps our cadre enthused and helps us stay relevant in state politics. For the BJP, it helps ensure the Sena is kept in check.”
Another NCP leader said Pawar’s strategies have diverse possibilities, including protecting his senior leaders and ensuring his party does not split.
“Remember we have never ever been out of power, ever since the party was formed. Being out of power makes it difficult to retain interests of workers and leaders who have been accustomed to power,” said another leader.
NCP state chief Sunil Tatkare, made his party’s position clear. “We believe there can be no politics in Maharashtra without the NCP’s involvement. We are watching each and every minute political development in the state very closely.”