Fresh schisms developed within the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) troika after the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) faction said its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had reportedly “failed to find a political legatee” to take the NCP forward.
Problems also emerged between the Congress and the Shiv Sena (UBT) after State Congress chief Nana Patole was upset with Mr. Thackeray for inducting Congress general secretary Snehal Jagtap into the latter’s party during Mr. Thackeray’s rally at Mahad in Raigad.
An edit in the Sena (UBT)’s mouthpiece Saamana — whose executive editor is Thackeray camp loyalist MP Sanjay Raut — while saying the NCP president failed to groom a successor who could lead the party after Mr. Pawar, also credited the 82-year-old NCP supremo for his “masterstroke” in queering the BJP’s “game plan” of splitting the NCP with his resignation episode.
“Sharad Pawar is like an old tree of the political field. He exited the Congress [in 1999] and set up his own party, the Nationalist Congress Party. He took the party forward, which made its presence felt. However, he has failed to create a leadership that will hold the reins of the party after him,” said the editorial.
The Saamana edit ‘criticising’ Mr. Pawar is being seen as a response to the NCP chief’s less than flattering remarks about Mr. Thackeray in the updated edition of his political memoirs Lok Mazhe Sangati (people in my company), which was released on May 2. It was then that Mr. Pawar had startled his allies and partymen by announcing he was stepping down as NCP national president — only to take back his resignation after three days of intense drama.
All is well: Pawar
In response to the editorial, Mr. Pawar, speaking in Solapur, said that “all is well within the MVA” and that the NCP and the editor of the Saamana (alluding to Mr. Raut) were “all working together.”
Mr. Pawar pointedly said: “I have not read the edit…will give an opinion only after reading it. But even when I had announced my resignation from the president’s post [which he subsequently took back] that did not mean I had washed my hands of the NCP.”
In his memoirs, Mr. Pawar has criticised Mr. Thackeray’s lack of political acumen, expressing his displeasure about Mr. Thackeray quitting as Chief Minister last year (in the wake of Eknath Shinde’s revolt) before going forward to the floor test. He also criticised Mr. Thackeray for visiting the Mantralaya (as Maharashtra’s State Secretariat is called) only twice during his stint as Chief Minister of the erstwhile MVA government while remarking that it was easier to communicate with the latter’s father — the late Bal Thackeray — than it had been with Uddhav.
The Saamana editorial, while lauding Mr. Pawar’s resignation move, claimed that just as the BJP had split the Shiv Sena, it likewise had a plan to break the NCP.
“Some people were even ready with ‘bags’ and had kept lodging-boarding ready for those arriving there. However, Sharad Pawar’s masterstroke ensured that the BJP’s game plan came a cropper,” it said.
The editorial further claimed that one faction of the NCP wanted Mr. Pawar to join hands with the BJP and free them from the harassment of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Income Tax Department.
NCP slams Raut
Meanwhile, lashing out at Mr. Raut, senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal said the Sena (UBT) leader should focus on his own party rather than concentrate on the NCP.
“We all know that Sanjay Raut writes these edit pieces…Why does he want to create differences between MVA allies? Does he want the NCP to exit the MVA? Sanjay Raut should not worry too much about us. Had he concentrated on the Shinde group, then their rebellion could have been forestalled and we [MVA] would not have been out of power,” said Mr. Bhujbal, in a caustic reply to Mr. Raut.
He further said that the NCP had enough capable leaders like Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule and Jayant Patil to take the party forward.
Meanwhile, Congressman Mr. Patole expressed his displeasure at Mr. Thackeray over the induction of former Congress leader Mr. Jagtap into the Sena (UBT).
“The induction of Snehal Jagtap in Shiv Sena (UBT) in the presence of Uddhav Thackeray at the Mahad rally is unethical. If they wean away people from our party, it will unsettle MVA. We will raise this issue at the MVA meeting,” said Mr. Patole.