The NCP, including its president Sharad Pawar, deny it vehemently. But the agriculture minister’s visit to Matoshree to call on Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday has set the cat among the pigeons.
Ostensibly, it was to persuade Balasaheb to lay off Australian cricketers who will be playing IPL matches in Mumbai. But many believe this wasn’t the single-point agenda.
Among them is Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who says 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 (Pawar) 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 isn’t worried. “Even if he is trying to send us a message, he and his party will be finished if they seek a realignment...with the Shiv Sena. This is not the Sharad Pawar of old. He can now do nothing. These are all empty threats.’’
Pawar, he says, could have sent BCCI chief Shashank Manohar and followed it up with a call to Thackeray.
But NCP national general secretary Govindrao Adik disagrees. “Manohar does not carry the weight Pawar does. Thackeray wouldn’t have given Manohar the time of the day.’’