New Delhi: NCP chief Sharad Pawar Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered to “work together”, and even offered his daughter and party MP Supriya Sule a ministerial berth in the NDA government but he denied the offer.
The veteran leader, however, denied speculation that the PM had offered him the post of President of India.
“I had taken the PM’s appointment on 20 November. I had taken up the cause of farmers affected by unseasonal rains… after our discussion was over, he called me back saying ‘I will be happy if we work together’,” Pawar told Marathi news channel ABP Majha. “I rejected the offer, saying ‘our personal relations are excellent and in the future too they will be excellent but politically it is not convenient for me’.”
Pawar added that an offer was made to make his daughter, Supriya Sule, a minister at the Centre if the NCP allied with the BJP to form government in Maharashtra.
“That’s not true (being offered President’s post),” Pawar said. “But an offer was made to make Supriya Sule a minister at the Centre and form a joint government of the NCP and BJP in Maharashtra.”
He, however, said he told the prime minister that the NCP would work with the NDA government on national issues. “I told him that on national issues, my party will work with his government and not oppose it for the sake of opposing,” Pawar said. “We will take a positive stand on national issues.”
Pawar had met the prime minister on 20 November, three days before his nephew Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP and formed the short-lived Devendra Fadnavis government of around 80 hours.
In an interview to ABP News later in the evening, Pawar said he was “shocked by his nephew’s actions”.
“There is no question that I knew what happened,” Pawar said in the interview. “I was even more shocked that it was Ajit. After it happened, I briefed the Shiv Sena and we did a joint press conference. I knew that we (NCP) should not appear to be a party to this.”
After the press conference, he added, NCP MLAs who had gone with Ajit began returning and so did the latter. Pawar said the entire rebellion was engineered by Ajit and that it was a conscious decision to leave him out of the oath-taking ceremony.
“When it came to the oath-taking, we discussed whether or not Ajit should be a part of it. He himself was of the opinion that he should stay away,” Pawar said.
‘Sonia was reluctant to ally with the Shiv Sena’
Pawar Monday also emphasised on the effort it took to convince the Congress to join hands with the Shiv Sena. He said Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi was “reluctant to ally with the Shiv Sena” and yielded only after he cited examples of Bal Thackeray supporting the Emergency and the Sena’s support to Congress’ presidential candidates in the past.
“Congress (Sonia Gandhi) was not keen on allying with the Shiv Sena,” Pawar said. “I gave them instances where the Shiv Sena had backed the Congress. Balasaheb Thackeray was the only one to have supported (former PM) Indira Gandhi when she imposed the Emergency. In the the Vidhan Sabha elections that followed, the Shiv Sena stayed away even as every other political party decided to not help the Congress.”
Pawar added that when Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee were contesting the presidential elections, the Congress had asked him to get the Shiv Sena to vote in their favour. “Despite being a part of the (BJP-led) NDA, the Shiv Sena voted with the Congress on both occasions,” Pawar said.
“When Congress needed them, the Shiv Sena helped the party,” Pawar added. “And now when they had to ally with them, ideology became an issue. I did not like this.”
He said the Congress’ local leadership also played a crucial role in convincing Sonia to keep the BJP out of power.
Uddhav Thackeray as CM
On the NCP backing Uddhav Thackeray as the head of the coalition government, Pawar said the Shiv Sena chief was initially reluctant to take over as the chief minister. “Uddhav told us that he had promised Balasaheb Thackeray that the Shiv Sena would have a chief minister but he had said that it would not be him,” Pawar said, adding the alliance convinced Uddhav that he was the only consensus candidate.
“He agreed at last,” Pawar said, but added that the Sena would not be a part of the Congress-led UPA. He said this is a state-level alliance and that other UPA allies had not been consulted on this tie-up.
Pawar also said they had not decided on a larger opposition alliance as of yet but added that regional parties needed to come together to counter the BJP juggernaut.
“I agree that regional parties are not powerful enough but where we are, we need to come together,” he said. “Congress with its national base has an important role to play in this.”