Row over Nana Patole’s statements: Congress seniors meet Sharad Pawar for damage control
After a rift between the state’s ruling parties over the ‘unwarranted’ statements by Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole repeatedly on few occasions, senior party leaders met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar as a damage control exercise at the latter’s Mumbai residence.
Congress central leadership has reportedly expressed unhappiness over Patole’s remarks and has asked him to avoid needless controversies.
Patole had kicked up a row last week after stating that he was put under surveillance by chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray and deputy CM Ajit Pawar, and that his movements and chats were being closely watched. After a clip of him making these allegations at a party meeting on Saturday went viral, there were strong reactions from Congress’ allies NCP and Shiv Sena and even from within the party. He also had said that Pune district was neglected and funds were diverted to Ajit Pawar’s constituency Baramati. He went on to saying that NCP and Sena backstab Congress when it comes to releasing development funds for the bodies controlled by it.
The statements had irked NCP and Sena leaders. Pawar had ridiculed Patole on Sunday by saying that he was “a small leader whose comments do not warrant a response.”
Senior Congress leaders took the reaction from Pawar seriously, and it was brought to the notice of the central leadership. The state leaders raised the issue of frequent ‘misfiring’ statements by Patole which unnecessarily create rift between coalition partners, during their meeting with leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, and All India Congress Committee general secretary and Maharashtra in-charge HK Patil in the past two days.
Kharge was in Mumbai on Monday.
“The strong reaction by Pawar was taken seriously by the Congress. Patole’s statement related to the alliance in the forthcoming local body polls and a letter related to the probe in a tender related to the mining department held by the Shiv Sena, too, had created troubles within the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. His resignation from the speaker’s post, given without consulting two other parties, has already created bitterness within the alliance. The Congress leaders called on Pawar to ensure that further rift in ruling parties is averted,” said a senior leader who aware of the developments.
Besides Patil, senior leaders and state ministers Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat met Pawar at his home. Patole was deliberately kept away from the meeting. He had a one-on-one meeting with Patil in the morning. Patil reportedly expressed his unhappiness over Patole’s tirade against MVA allies.
However, later Patil downplayed the episode by saying that Patole’s statement was misconstrued in the media.
“A wrong statement leads to disturbance within the ruling alliance, but Patole’s statement was mispresented in the media. He was speaking about the Central government and he himself has clarified it,” said Patil.
Patole said he was misquoted, and the leak of the selective part of the video was a conspiracy to defame the party. He said that the meeting with Pawar was to persuade the Centre for the release of the empirical data on other backward classes. As the collection of the empirical data by the state backward classes commission was not possible in next three-four months before the local bodies’ elections, there was no option to get it from the Centre, said Patole. He also claimed that the state leaders were planning to meet CM to push for the data.
Meanwhile, Patil held number of meetings with state and Mumbai Congress leaders over the past two days to discuss the party’s preparedness for the forthcoming local body elections. Twenty-four district councils, 22 municipal corporations and 144 municipal councils and panchayats are scheduled for polling till May 2022.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former CM Prithviraj Chavan said that leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis misguided the legislature by saying there were 80 million errors in the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) data. He said that the Registrar General and Census Commissioner and Union home ministry have already clarified that SECC data has been thoroughly analysed and there was no error in 98.87% data. Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stated that the letter by Centre in July 2015 to state governments had clearly stated that there were 80 million errors in SECC data. BJP said that of them, 67.3 million were latter rectified.