CM made a cautious decision to ease lockdown: Pawar in Saamana interview
Sharad Pawar, in an interview with the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, insisted there was no difference of opinion between him and Thackeray over the way the government brought in the relaxations during the lockdown.Updated: Jul 12, 2020 01:52 IST
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday commended Maharashtra chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray for deciding to ease the curbs during the Covid-19 lockdown at the right time in his “cautious” style of functioning.
Pawar, in an interview with the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, insisted there was no difference of opinion between him and Thackeray over the way the government brought in the relaxations during the lockdown.
This is the first time Saamana has published a three-part interview of a politician who is not Sena’s top leader. The newspaper had previously only carried such interviews of late party founder Bal Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray.
In the interview with Saamana’s executive editor and Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Pawar said he came to the conclusion that curbs should be gradually lifted to revive the economy, after discussions with several people, and then brought it to the notice of the CM. “During this entire situation, I have been in touch with the chief minister, and am even today... During this time, I had discussions with labour bodies, business-owners, etc. I formed an opinion based on that and brought it to the notice of the CM,” Pawar said.
The Maharashtra government under Mission Begin Again started relaxing lockdown norms from June. There were speculations that Thackeray was earlier unwilling to open up the state, but Pawar intervened to get the curbs eased.
Pawar refuted reports of differences between him and Thackeray on lifting the lockdown. He also categorically denied that there were any differences between Sena and its ruling partners, the NCP and Congress. “This is not called a difference of opinion. Delhi and Karnataka allowed relaxations, and there were consequences, but economic activities started again. Such steps have to be taken. If the entire state and the country’s economy are disrupted, then the ill-effects will be far greater than coronavirus,” he said.
“The decision that came was true to the nature of the chief minister. Meaning, a decision should be taken but with caution – to take a step by seeing all sides, so that there is no need to go back on it,” Pawar added.
He pointed out that three parties with different ideologies have managed to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak in the state.
The Maratha strongman denied that he is either the “remote control” or the “headmaster” of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, amid a buzz that Pawar has been directing Thackeray from behind the curtains, and running the government.
“I am neither. If headmaster, he would have been part of a school. In a democracy, governments or administration do not function with remote control,” he said, giving an example of the political scenario in Russia.
The veteran leader denied that the alliance between the member parties of the MVA —the Sena, NCP, and Congress— was an “accident”. Pawar pointed out that in the Lok Sabha elections last year, there was no change of government, but before the state assembly polls, the people had decided to bring about a change.
He said Sena’s voters and supporters were uneasy during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Sena government between 2014 and 2019, and the party paid a heavy price for its association.
“The BJP continuously took a stand to sideline Sena and, keep it quiet. They functioned as if it was only a BJP government. Earlier too, there was a Sena-BJP government under Manohar Joshi, but the atmosphere was not like this then. The BJP sidelined the Sena; this did not go down well with the people of Maharashtra,” Pawar said.
Without naming former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Pawar said, “No political leader should take the people for granted saying ‘I will come back again’.”
He said that voters do not tolerate it if they are taken for granted. “Powerful leaders with a mass base like Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been defeated. It means that in terms of democratic rights, the common man is wiser than the politicians. If we politicians cross the line, he teaches us a lesson.”
Pawar added the Sena made a major contribution to the BJP’s assembly tally of 105 seats in 2019. “Had it not been for the Shiv Sena, that number would have been around 40-50.”
Pressing on about the incompatibility of the BJP and Sena, Pawar claimed that Bal Thackeray’s functioning style and ideology were not similar to that of the BJP. “He respected leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, and Pramod Mahajan,” he said. “The Sena had struggles with the Congress, but it was never permanent, I think. Shiv Sena was never at loggerheads with the Congress,” Pawar added.