Editor’s note: In light of this morning’s developments in Maharashtra, we’re republishing this piece that was originally published on 20 November, which examined the possibility of the NCP drawing close to the BJP in the state.
After Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut claimed that the meeting was a routine matter, and the subject of discussion was the agrarian situation. However, if Raut actually believes so, he would do well to recall his own statement to the effect that one would need 100 births to understand Sharad Pawar.
Pawar’s meeting with Modi needs to be seen in the light of the ongoing brinkmanship by political parties in Maharashtra. Further, Modi is known for springing surprises, be it on policies, appointments or allies.
Notwithstanding Raut's statement, there are four key reasons why the Shiv Sena has reasons to worry about the ongoing political developments.
Firstly, in Pawar's 40-minute long meeting with Modi, no aides or colleagues were present. If the NCP chief had to indeed speak only about farmer distress, it was surprising why he was not accompanied by any party colleagues. Similarly, Modi did not ask the agriculture minister or an official from the ministry to join the meeting. Clearly, the petition on farmers' issues was only the pretext; there are likely to have been other matters on the agenda as well.
After the meeting, Pawar tweeted —
This year the returning monsoon devastated almost every standing crop in major parts of Maharashtra. I brought to notice this alarming situation to the kind attention of Hon. PM.
— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) November 20, 2019
However, the NCP's statements cannot be taken at face value. After all, only days ago, there was much hype around a meeting of Pawar with Sonia Gandhi, but after the meeting, Pawar said that government formation was not discussed. Subsequent to that, Congress and NCP leaders have met several times with no concrete outcome in sight.
Secondly, Maharashtra is currently under President's Rule. This means that the state is under the direct control of the Centre, where a BJP-led government with a full majority is firmly in place. Further, the BJP has 105 members in the Assembly, which is presently in suspended animation. Given these circumstances, the BJP would ordinarily have sent a delegation of state-level leaders to meet the prime minister. The party would also have resisted attempts by other parties to portray themselves as being concerned about the farmers' cause. However, as it happened, Modi met Pawar for a significant period of time, ostensibly on the issue of farm distress.
Thirdly, Modi's recent praise for the NCP on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament was significant. Modi had said that the party puts forth its stand without creating a ruckus. The prime minister even went on to say that the NCP (and the BJD) have won people's hearts by maintaining high standards of decorum. The statement was likely to have been a well-considered one, and not an off-the-cuff remark. After all, the NCP has only five MPs in the Lok Sabha and four in the Rajya Sabha. The party's adherence to decorum is unlikely to make much of a difference to the functioning of proceedings in Parliament.
Fourthly, the prime minister's praise for the NCP came on a day that the BJP sent a strong message to its erstwhile ally Shiv Sena, by seeking that its seats in both Houses of Parliament should be moved from the treasury benches to the Opposition benches.
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Updated Date: Nov 23, 2019 09:06:27 IST