Why Sharad Pawar insisted Congress be part of Maha government?Updated: Nov 14, 2019 23:40 IST
Trust deficit remains an issue between old partners – the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – amid talks on government formation in the state. Wary that the Congress could be in a position to “blackmail” the coalition government of the NCP and Shiv Sena if it extends outside support, NCP chief Sharad Pawar insisted the Congress join the government, said sources. This, in turn, has delayed the process.
Maharashtra has been in political uncertainty since October 24, when the Assembly election results were announced, after the BJP and Sena had trouble over coming to an agreement over sharing the chief minister’s post and Sena began talks with the Congress and NCP. The development also led to a possibility of an unusual alliance between the Shiv Sena and NCP, with help from the Congress. Although the Congress leadership, despite apprehensions, agreed to extend outside support to the coalition government, the NCP chief remained firm on his stand. “The NCP’s decision will be in agreement with the Congress, which is our ally. We have not put forth any condition before the Shiv Sena,” Pawar said on Monday.
“For a stable government, the three parties [NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena] will have to come together. Without the Congress, a government cannot be formed,” Ajit Pawar, senior NCP leader, said on Tuesday. “There would be no stability if the Shiv Sena and NCP come together to form a government, with outside support from the Congress,” said an NCP insider, requesting anonymity. “One cannot rule out the chances that the Congress may use this as an opportunity to blackmail the government over various issues.”
NCP’s insistence comes from a major political development in March 1991, when then Prime Minister Chandrashekhar-led government ended within four months, after the Congress withdrew its support over a matter involving two policemen.
On March 2, 1991, two constables — Prem Singh and Raj Singh — from Haryana state CID were arrested for ‘snooping’ outside Rajiv Gandhi’s home at 10, Janpath, triggering a political storm. They allegedly confessed they had been sent to gather information. The Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress withdrew its support, forcing Chandrashekhar to announce his resignation on March 6, 1991. The Samajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya) formed the government with the Congress, which was the largest party in the Lok Sabha then. SJP(R) was a breakaway of the Janata Dal.
“If support to a government can be withdrawn by making this as an issue, anything can be made up to take away the support for the Shiv Sena-NCP government,” said a senior NCP leader.
State Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant refused to make any comment. He said, “It will be inappropriate for him to comment as these are mere speculations. I will comment only if someone comes on record. As far as Congress’s role in the state government is concerned, it will be decided by the party leadership.”
The Shiv Sena and NCP together have 110 seats (Shiv Sena: 56 and NCP: 54). With Congress (44 seats), the number goes up to 154. The halfway mark to the legislative Assembly is 145.
A section of Congress leaders in Mumbai and Delhi, too, suspect that the NCP is not completely on board yet or the party leadership just wants to create an air of suspicion to increase the bargaining power with the Sena and Congress. Hemant Takle, national secretary of the NCP, said, “Maharashtra needs a stable government and it was also a declared position of the NCP chief that the coalition government will be stable if all partners come together.”
However, the Congress has finally agreed to discuss the possibilities if it becomes part of the government and also the power-sharing formula.
Political analyst Abhay Deshpande said: “Congress MLAs were very keen to be part of the coalition government. Keeping these ambitious legislators outside the government is a big risk, especially when the BJP may go poaching to form its own government. Pawar may not want to take the risk if he wants to run the government for five years.”