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Maharashtra government formation: What Sharad Pawar’s comments on meeting PM Modi may mean

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Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has been known to measure his words, not just in public, but also in party meetings and private gatherings.

So it came as a surprise when Pawar, in an interview to Marathi TV channel ABP Majha, revealed details of what transpired between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their one-on-one meet on November 20.

“Modi had offered me to work together. I told him that our personal relations are very good and they will remain that way, but it is not possible for me to work together,” Pawar told the news channel, adding that there was also an offer from Modi to make Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule, a cabinet minister.

The Modi-Pawar meet, coming as it did during high political drama in Maharashtra over government formation, sparked speculations of Pawar joining forces with the BJP and isolating Shiv Sena and Congress, with whom the NCP was in talks for forming a government in the state.

Pawar’s own comments, both before and after the meet, and PM Modi’s praise for the NCP during his speech in Rajya Sabha, set the political circles abuzz in New Delhi and Maharashtra.

It did not help matters (for Pawar, as it turns out) when Ajit Pawar, his nephew and the man considered number two in NCP, went ahead and formed a government with the BJP, a short-lived experiment that reportedly angered Pawar Sr.

While Pawar clarified that Ajit’s decision was his own and not the party’s, the narrative built was that of Pawar tacitly supporting Ajit, and it is in this context, say observers, that Pawar’s comments should be analysed.

“Pawar generally doesn’t make such statements unless he has a point to make. And this time around, I think he was trying to underline a set of points,” a Congress leader in Maharashtra told Moneycontrol.

“For one, he was signalling to the leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi that he was not, and will not be involved, in negotiations with the BJP. This is important because the top leadership of our party does not trust Pawar very much,” the leader said. Another point, the leader said, was to signal to the MVA partners that Pawar intends on keeping the alliance intact.

“His statements are also intended for the Congress high command in New Delhi. They were more worried about the NCP than Shiv Sena after the turn of events from November 20. Pawar’s clarification might come as an assurance for them,” said another state Congress leader.

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