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"Sena Must Have Some Inside Info"

NCP leader and Bal Thackeray-baiter Sharad Pawar is in accord with the Shiv Sena supremo for once, backing the latter's demand for a probe into the PMO's alleged links in the UTI scam. Pawar spoke to Bhavdeep Kang. Excerpts:

Tribhuvan Tiwari
"Sena Must Have Some Inside Info"
You've said that Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam's charges against the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) should be investigated.
Bal Thackeray has publicly supported Nirupam's statements regarding the pmo (involvement in the uti scam). They must be making these statements on the basis of inside information, perhaps from the three Shiv Sena Union ministers. So one has to take the charges seriously. The jpc should call Thackeray and Nirupam and ask them what the basis (of the charges) is and investigate it. I know Thackeray. He is forthright and bold. I think he will come out with the truth.

Do you agree with the Congress demand that Yashwant Sinha should take responsibility for the uti scam and step down?
We should wait for the result of the jpc probe before demanding that anyone step down. But I'm reminded of Sinha's statement in the House a couple of years ago, when he said "How can we allow uti to collapse?" That same approach must be followed. The lower middle class and middle class have been badly hit. Also, the public institutions running schools, hospitals, charities etc. They have suffered because the government itself had directed them to invest their funds only in government securities. They put the money in uti and now they are in bad shape.

What about the Opposition's recent demand for the resignation of the Union home minister after debacles in the Northeast and j&k?
I don't believe in this business of demanding resignations, but it's true that there have been clear-cut failures by the home ministry. No one expected a breakthrough in Agra, but the way it turned out, there was bound to be a fallout. Precautions should have been taken by the home minister. In j&k, we need to take a hard line without alienating the local population.

The security forces should be confident that the government is behind them. The Punjab police who faced the militants are now facing jail or suspension. The government's approach should be more rational.

Is Bal Thackeray trying to split the NCP?
He's been trying to get 10-15 mlas from the Democratic Front, not just my party, from the moment Vilasrao Deshmukh took oath. Nothing has happened and nothing will. The Maharashtra government is stable. Bal Thackeray will not succeed.

Is a convergence of the Congress and NCP likely?
No. The basic differences between us remain the same. But we prefer to associate with a secular party. The Opposition must get together on several issues. The Congress is the largest Opposition party. We can't bypass it.

Then why didn't you attend Sonia Gandhi's tea party, for the leaders of Opposition parties?
I do not attend functions for which invitations are sent through a messenger. Our MP, Praful Patel, attended Manmohan Singh's function (for Opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha).

Any chance of an electoral tie-up with either the Congress or the BJP
No. Our vote base is such that we prefer to go it alone.

Are there any faultlines in the Democratic Front, over Enron for instance?
No. The decision to go in for a judicial commission to probe the Enron deal was unanimous. The ncp was party to it. My position remains that whatever decision is taken should not impose a financial liability on the state. Currently, the charges are beyond the capacity of the state. The tariff must come down and surplus power from the second phase of the project should be distributed to other states.

What's your view on the abortive appointment of Purno Sangma as the government's negotiator in the Nagaland imbroglio?
The initial discussion on the subject was between the prime minister and me. Sangmaji was not in the picture. Vajpayeeji called up and asked if I could spare him (Sangma). I said I would have to know what it was all about. Later, we spoke again but nothing has materialised.

Has the NCP decided not to push for a law banning foreigners from holding key public office in the Constitution Review Commission?
No. Sangmaji had prepared a report on the subject to put before the Commission. We have not drawn back. If the Commission itself has rejected it, we will have to take a view on whether to continue as a member.
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