Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day had lasted for nearly 50 minutes. Addressing reporters later, the NCP chief said they discussed the Maharashtra political situation but not government formation or any common minimum agenda. “We have to sort out some more issues. We have not discussed forming an alliance with any party yet,”. Sharad Pawar showed no interest in talking about speculated alliance with Shiv Sena. There are rumours in political corridors that NCP-Congress will form government on the condition of Shiv Sena remotely supporting them. With leaders from both parties denying any decision, the biggest hint of an alliance in the making was seen in the gesture by the Congress and NCP not to contest the post of mayor or deputy mayor in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. The cash-rich Mumbai civic body is controlled by the Shiv Sena.
Sharad Pawar said “Shiv Sena-BJP contested separately, NCP-Congress contested separately, how can one draw conclusion about forming government? BJP-Sena have to find their own way. We will do our own politics”.
When asked about, Shiv Sena saying they will form a government along with Pawar Saheb?
Pawar shot back asking “Accha? (Really?)”
Meanwhile over enthusiastic Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut called on Sharad Pawar. Although Raut did not let on much about the discussions, he expressed confidence that a Sena-led coalition would soon take power in Maharashtra, which has been under President’s Rule for a week. He ducked questions on the talks for government formation in Maharashtra, only saying that the state will soon get a “Sena-led government”. Raut later told reporters that he had met Sharad Pawar to discuss agricultural problems, among other issues. “Sharad Pawar is a senior leader and a former Union Agriculture Minister. So I asked him to lead a delegation of leaders to meet the Prime Minister and apprise him of farmers’ woes in the country.”
When AV asked Sanjay Raut about the government formation, he summed up saying, “We will be coming to power, but nothing can be disclosed at this juncture, one need to wait and watch”.
Whereas Sharad Pawar clearly stated that, “We have to sort out many issues before taking any decision on government formation and we have not discussed forming an alliance with any party yet.” He gave the impression that a Sena-NCP-Congress alliance may not be a done deal yet. He also rubbished speculation that he had left the door open for a tie-up with the BJP; the BJP won 105 seats in last month’s Maharashtra Assembly polls and scored a comfortable majority with the Shiv Sena (56), which walked out of their alliance after a bitter power tussle. The NCP is only two seats behind the Sena.
Pawar asserted stating that, “There is no question of supporting the BJP. We will have discussions with the Congress”, adding there was plenty of time to do so after President’s Rule had been imposed in the state last week. He repeatedly denied any discussion on partnering with the Sena.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told AV, “Very soon the representatives from NCP and Congress will meet in Delhi to discuss the way forward, and already Sharad Pawar has informed Sonia Gandhi on the state of affairs in Maharashtra. Some conclusion can be drawn in a day or two”.
As the NCP and Congress put off an announcement yet again, sources said each party is holding out in the negotiations to get a bigger share. The Sena’s Sanjay Raut, however, displayed confidence that a Sena-led alliance was in the works and would take power soon. Pawar has largely been cryptic and noncommittal on the talks. Sonia Gandhi has been wary of any tie-up with the ideologically opposite, pro-Hindutva Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally-turned-ex. She came around to the idea as her party’s Maharashtra leadership insisted on the tie-up, arguing it was an opportunity to keep the BJP out in India’s financial hub. The Congress president was also advised that sitting on any decision would mean “hara kiri” (blunder).