In the name of farmer, astute Pawar meets wily Modi as Maharashtra waits for govt

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Maharashtra's wait for a government continues in spite of frantic talks involving all four probable stakeholders of power - the Shiv Sena, the NCP, the Congress and the BJP. Most of these meetings have been called for "exploring possibilities" of government formation with no obvious results emanating from them. Some of these meetings have, however, taken place in the name of the farmer. Latest in this series was a meeting between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today in New Delhi.

Pawar submitted a letter to PM Modi seeking his "urgent intervention" to give relief to distressed farmers of Maharashtra saying that he is "collecting details and information regarding the same."

Reports said Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were also called in by PM Modi during his meeting with Pawar. After Pawar-Modi meeting ended, Amit Shah held separate meeting with the prime minister.

The meeting between Sharad Pawar and PM Modi came after Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena met the NCP chief to discuss "issues related to farmers" pending government formation in Maharashtra and despite several twists and turns in the negotiation for a three-party coalition, that also involves the Congress.

There is another background to the Pawar-Modi meeting over issues related to farmers of Maharashtra, and not the government formation in the state. It took place in the backdrop of reports that the Congress leadership is of the view that the party should announce a formal tie-up only after the BJP has given another shot at government formation in Maharashtra.

Reports suggest that three key advisors to Congress president Sonia Gandhi - AK Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ahmed Patel - have advised her to proceed with caution in announcing an alliance with the Shiv Sena. Senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have, it is learnt, also expressed some hesitation in joining hands with the Shiv Sena.

AK Antony was the only leader to be present during the last Sharad Pawar-Sonia Gandhi meeting, emerging from which the NCP chief had left the waiting journalists and the Shiv Sena baffled. He had said it was for the BJP and the Shiv Sena to find a way to form government and also questioned the Shiv Sena's claim of having 170 MLAs in its support.

This was surprising as only three days ago, Sharad Pawar had announced that the three-party coalition was final and a common minimum programme (CMP) for governance was being finalised. Many credited his about-turn to "pressure" from the Modi government, in an apparent reference to Enforcement Directorate cases against Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar and senior NCP leader Praful Patel.

Sharad Pawar has been the central figure in the negotiations for government formation ever since the BJP and the Shiv Sena strained their relationship over the question of chief minister. Sharad Pawar is the only route for a possible alternate ruling coalition if the BJP does not rethink its stand on government.

The meeting between Sharad Pawar and PM Modi has taken place at a time when leaders from the Shiv Sena, the NCP and interestingly some in the BJP too, have claimed that Maharashtra will have a government by the first week of December. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut even claimed that his party had asked Sharad Pawar to meet PM Modi "over issues related to farmers".

Incidentally, the farmer of Maharashtra became the "reason" for some very high-profile meetings since the Shiv Sena upped its ante against its former ally-turned-rival, the BJP. This began soon after election results were announced on October 24.

With Shiv Sena spoiling the celebratory mood, Devendra Fadnavis, then as the chief minister, flew to Delhi and met Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah to discuss issues related to farmers of Maharashtra.

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