Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has dismissed speculation of differences between the parties that run the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra, and praised Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s role as chief minister.
In an interview with Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, the executive editor of the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, Pawar squarely blamed the media for allegation of a rift and lack of coordination in the MVA. The first part of the three-part interview was published Saturday.
“A crisis of a large magnitude like Covid, three parties with three ideologies, but everyone is firmly with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray,” Pawar said.
“They are supporting his policies and braving the situation. They are firmly standing with the people. This has happened only because everyone is working together with one heart. There is no unhappiness within the three parties at all,” he added.
MVA is a coalition between the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress. The interview comes amid multiple instances that have suggested a rift between the three parties.
‘Newspapers need to fill spaces’
Congress ministers have complained about not having a say in the government and expressed reservations about Thackeray’s decision to retain former chief secretary Ajoy Mehta as a personal adviser beyond the latter’s retirement.
According to sources, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of the NCP was not kept in the loop about a Mumbai Police circular last month, since scrapped, that restricted people’s movement within a two-km radius of their homes unless for essential work.
The speculation gained ground earlier this month when Thackeray stayed a Mumbai Police decision on internal transfers of 10 deputy commissioners of police (DCP) as he had not been consulted, sources said. Both the aforementioned examples suggested a lack of coordination between the offices of the home ministry and the chief minister.
A series of meetings was subsequently held between Thackeray, Pawar and senior Shiv Sena and NCP leaders, including Deshmukh, where it was agreed upon that matters such as transfers must be run through the CM. Eventually, on Friday, nine DCPs were transferred with three changes suggested by Thackeray.
There were also reports of a disagreement between Pawar and Thackeray over the latter’s decision to extend the lockdown in Maharashtra until 31 July and slow down the process of granting relaxations.
However, in the Saamana interview, Pawar accused the media of fabricating allegations of dissonance in the government.
“Newspapers, too, have some problems. The way we can’t step out or do our work because of the lockdown, the way several sectors have been impacted due to a halt in activities, newspapers, too, have been impacted,” he said.
“The main impact is that the activities and programmes that generate the kind of news that they want have reduced, but they can’t shy away from the responsibility of filling space. So they publish news reports such as disagreements between this person and that person,” he added.
“I have been reading reports of increasing differences between us, that is between Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena since the last two to three days. There’s not even a shred of truth in them, but these news reports are coming in so let them come,” he added.
‘Relaxations important for economy’
Pawar praised first-term CM Thackeray’s work in handling the Covid crisis, and taking timely decisions regarding the lockdown as well as granting relaxations to restart the economy.
“Thackeray took decisions as goes with his nature. He takes decisions, but with extreme caution. While taking a decision, he ensures that there will be no adverse consequences and only then takes the step,” he said.
“His outlook is that once he takes a step forward, he shouldn’t have to take it back,” Pawar added, saying there is a difference in the decision-making styles of Thackeray and his late father, the Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. The main difference, he said, is that the junior Thackeray is directly heading the administration.
The septuagenarian said he held discussions with a lot of groups, from workers’ unions to industries, during the lockdown and spoke to Thackeray about his opinion following the conversations.
“This isn’t called having differences in opinion. In Delhi, the government gave relaxations. There were consequences, but the economy got a push. Karnataka government, too, gave relaxations and faced consequences, but the activities started there. This is important. Steps will have to be taken in this direction. If the social, national and state economy completely collapse, then the next few generations will have to bear its brunt much more than Covid,” Pawar said, adding that CM Thackeray is definitely taking calculated steps in that direction. Pawar quoted his decision of opening salons and beauty parlours in the state as an example.
In response to a question by Raut on whether Pawar, said to be the glue holding the three-legged coalition together, is the headmaster or the remote control of the MVA government, the NCP leader said he is neither.
“A headmaster should be in a school… wherever there is a democracy, a remote control will never work… the government is being run by the CM and the cabinet alone,” Pawar said.