‘Operation Lotus’ will not be successful in Maharashtra: Pawar
Sharad Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and the architect of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, has said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-sponsored “Operation Lotus” would not succeed in Maharashtra and the Uddhav Thackeray-government would successfully complete its five-year term while he also promised to take a lead in creating an alternative political narrative after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak subsides.
Pawar said Operation Lotus is a gross misuse of power and cited it as a means to weaken and destabilise a democratically elected government.
Pawar made an exception and clarified about the NCP’s outside support to the BJP in Maharashtra in 2014 as a “political ploy” in a bid to keep the saffron party in check and prevent it from running amok against the smaller regional players such as the Shiv Sena.
The clarification came in the third and final instalment of the interview to Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, conducted by Sanjay Raut, Sena Rajya Sabha (RS) member, and the executive editor of the Marathi daily, which was published on Monday.
The veteran politician was categorical about the fate of the MVA coalition government – comprising the Sena, the NCP, and the Congress – amid the threat from Operation Lotus, which had shown its hand in Madhya Pradesh in March and is now playing out in Rajasthan.
“Some people from their party (BJP) have been saying this. First, they had said the government would collapse in three months, then in six months, and now are hedging their bets in September or October. However, I am confident that the Uddhav Thackeray-led government will complete its full term. Operation Lotus will have no impact on Maharashtra politics.”
Pawar also exuded confidence that the MVA allies could even contest the 2024 assembly polls together, if strategies were stitched up in advance.
“Operation Lotus is misusing power, aided by the Central government, to weaken and destabilise the democratically elected Maharashtra government.”
The NCP chief’s assertions came amid the ongoing political crisis in Rajasthan, as speculations are rife that the Ashok Gehlot-led government might go the Kamal Nath regime’s way.
He cited his “political ploy” in 2014, when the NCP gave outside support to the BJP to form the Maharashtra government in a bid to keep the saffron forces in check.
“I sincerely wished that the Sena and the BJP should not come together. But when I saw Sena would go with the BJP, I made a statement that we would give them outside support. The reason behind it was that the BJP had formed the government at the Centre. A BJP CM in Maharashtra won’t allow Sena and other parties to function in a democratic political setup. The BJP would have betrayed other parties sooner and that’s why I had adopted the political ploy,” he explained.
Raut did not quiz Pawar on his nephew and deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s move to back former CM Devendra Fadnavis to form an 80-hour government amid talks of the MVA allies last November to stake claim to form a coalition government.
Pawar dismissed the claim of Fadnavis that he (Pawar) was in talks with the BJP to form a government last year and then did a “U-turn” at the last moment. “Some BJP leaders spoke to my colleagues and me about government formation. They had insisted that they didn’t want to go with the Shiv Sena. They cited that I enjoy good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who should intervene in the government formation and I should approve the move. But, in a bid to avoid any confusion and perception about me and the NCP, I met the PM in his chamber at Parliament House and told him that my party wouldn’t go with the BJP. If possible, we will form the government with the Sena or sit in the opposition,” Pawar said.
He added that he had taken his RS colleague Raut into confidence about the meeting with PM Modi and what had transpired between the two leaders.
Pawar targeted Fadnavis and said that he did not think the latter had any say in the decision-making process at the national level. The public came to know about Fadnavis only after he became the Maharashtra CM.
The NCP leader said that the government’s move to serve an eviction notice on Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra to vacate her government bungalow smacked of “low-level politics”.
He said, “I don’t think this is cultured behaviour. Power should be used with humility. Such things happen when the arrogance of power goes into your head. Priyanka Gandhi is the daughter of a former PM (Rajiv Gandhi), who was assassinated. You may have political differences. But, there is no wisdom in using power to harass political opponents. This is low-level politics.”
Pawar also expressed optimism that the opposition parties have the capability to provide an alternative narrative to the nation. “However, that process has come to an abrupt halt because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This will gain momentum after the healthcare crisis blows over. I shall take the initiative to provide an alternative narrative to the political discourse, which is the need of the hour,” he added.