Sharad Pawar slams Modi’s I-Day speech, rebuts speculation

Mumbai: Putting a lid on speculation spurred by his meetings with nephew Ajit Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar Wednesday clarified that he is firm in his commitment to the 26-member INDIA alliance of opposition parties opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Speaking to reporters in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, Pawar (82) said he will fight against the BJP with all his might in the general election next year.

He also suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was following in the footsteps of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis by including a ‘mi punha yein’ (I’ll come back again) element in his Independence Day speech the previous day, instead of making a statement on ethnic violence in Manipur. On Tuesday, Modi had declared that this would not be his last address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

“Manipur is an important issue, I had hoped that the PM would speak about it in his 15th August speech, but it seems like the PM has taken guidance from Devendra Fadnavis and instead said ‘mi punha yein‘. He doesn’t care about the Northeast but cares about how he will come back (to power),” said Pawar.

The remark was a reference to the catchphrase ‘mi punha yein‘ that Fadnavis used during the 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections. While the BJP emerged as the single largest party in that election, Fadnavis could not return as chief minister owing to then Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s decision to walk out of its alliance with the BJP to join hands with the NCP and the Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance.

During his interaction with reporters Wednesday, Sharad Pawar also cleared the air about his meetings with nephew Ajit Pawar who along with eight other NCP MLAs joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra in July and became deputy to CM Eknath Shinde.

Since then, uncle and nephew have met on four separate occasions, including one instance of them having met ‘secretly’ at the residence of a businessman in Pune. Prior to this, uncle and and nephew met twice last month with Ajit claiming that the meetings were aimed at reaching an understanding that could help avoid a formal split within the NCP.

These meetings, however, have led to confusion not just among party workers but also among Sharad Pawar-led NCP’s allies, the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Congress.

On his most recent meeting with nephew Ajit, Pawar said, “I’m not denying that the meeting happened, but as head of the family, I speak to all family members. Many times we discuss family issues, which I can’t reveal to you people.”

He also dismissed speculation that the BJP made an offer in exchange for his endorsement to Ajit’s decision to extend support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“I have no idea about it. There was no such discussion,” he maintained.

Speaking on the sidelines of his rally in Beed, Pawar also accused the central government of dividing people on religious lines and adding to the bitterness among the masses.

“While society is trying to get out of the entire bitterness that we faced during that time (Partition), this government has issued a circular. Through this circular, the government is asking people to organise events where they want to display what happened during the Partition. It’s once again clear that the government wants to spread bitterness,” he said.

The criticism was aimed at a circular issued last week by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to all affiliated schools, conveying to them that the central government has decided to observe 14 August annually as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’.

On sharing a dais with Modi on 1 August during an event in Pune where the latter was conferred the Lokmanya Tilak National Award, Pawar said some of the trustees of the Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust — which gave away the award — are Congress leaders, but questions are asked of him instead.

“The program with the PM was fixed six months ago. Among the organisers was Sushil Kumar Shinde. Rohit Tilak was a Congress candidate. These people were the ones who organised the event. You don’t speak about them but focus on me,” he said.

Pawar also accused the Modi-led BJP of misusing central agencies to target opposition leaders. “Earlier, I used to think that party president and leaders take decisions for their party, but now I think the decisions are being taken by the ED (Enforcement Directorate).”

“What I see right now, is the atmosphere is not favourable for the Modi government. Looking at various state governments right now, it looks like people have decided to throw them (BJP) out. So whatever he (Modi) might claim, that he will come back, his condition will also be like that of Devendra Fadnavis and I have no doubts about it,” Pawar added.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Family, political style, strategy — why Sharad Pawar isn’t attacking rebels, unlike ally Thackeray



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