NCP chief Sharad Pawar said Saturday that his nephew Ajit Pawar’s decision to join the BJP-led Maharashtra government amounted to the betrayal of the trust of the electorate and that the allegations about his past decision to quit as the party boss were untrue.
“All NCP leaders used to discuss all sorts of things with me as the party chief. He had proposed that we should go with the BJP. I never agreed to that because people had not voted for us to go with the BJP. They had voted for a certain programme that we had put forward. In fact, we had sought votes against the BJP. So going against that would have amounted to cheating the voters,” Pawar told reporters in Pune.
He said that offers to join the BJP were made to him earlier also but he had turned them down repeatedly.
“In a democracy people have the right to choose the way they want to do politics,” he said.
Without naming his estranged nephew, who is now a deputy chief minister, the former Union agriculture minister said that people had voted for him on the NCP’s symbol and name and that the party had never gone with the BJP.
The remarks came a day after Ajit launched an attack on his uncle saying that his offer to resign as NCP chief, and the subsequent U-turn, was preplanned. Pawar not only denied the charges but also said that he had heard them for the first time.
“Our stance was always that we should not go with the BJP,” he said.
Taking a jibe at Ajit, Pawar said that the prime minister made a statement about an Rs 70,000-crore scam and within days the person who was thought to be at the centre of it went with the BJP.
‘Waiting for Praful Patel’s book’
Pawar also came down heavily on his former colleague Praful Patel, who claimed earlier this week that the NCP had plans to ally with the BJP in 2003. Pawar said that it was Patel who insisted the NCP join the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. “He spent hours trying to convince me to go with the BJP, but I told him clearly that it was not possible for me. I also told him that if he wanted to go with the BJP alone, then I would not hold that against him. Then he decided to stay with us,” he said.
Pawar said that Patel had lost his seat in the Lok Sabha elections that followed. “Patel was made a Union minister even after his defeat,” he added.
Asked about Patel’s statement that he was privy to so many secrets that he could write a book about them, Pawar said. “I am waiting for his book. Hopefully he will write a chapter about why people quit a party and defect. He should also write about the ED raids on his home and how many floors of the building were attached by the ED and why? He should write about all this so that it will add to our knowledge.”
Pawar replied in the negative when asked if he regretted welcoming Ajit back to the NCP after his early morning swearing-in as a minister in the cabinet led by BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis in 2019. He also refused to speculate about the motive behind his nephew’s move.
Asked about Ajit’s announcement that his NCP faction would contest the Baramati Lok Sabha seat in the 2024 elections, Pawar said people have the freedom to fight elections from anywhere in a democracy. On whether Supriya Sule would contest the seat, Pawar said the party’s “president would decide the candidates”, referring to Jayant Patil.
Another senior NCP leader and former minister, Anil Deshmukh denied Ajit’s claim that he had chosen to side with Pawar after being denied a cabinet berth in the BJP-led government. “Hasan Mushrif spent five hours at my home trying to convince me. My answer to him was that I couldn’t side with the BJP, which had framed me in false cases,” he said.