More than three years after he teamed up with Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar in an overnight coup to form a short-lived government in Maharashtra, deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the dramatic exercise had NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s backing.
However, Sharad Pawar stoutly denied Fadnavis's claim and said he never thought the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader will base his assertion on falsehood.
“We had an offer from the NCP that they needed a stable government and we should form such a government together. We decided to go ahead and hold talks. The talks happened with Sharad Pawar. Then things changed. You have seen how things changed,” Fadnavis said, referring to Ajit Pawar quitting the government 80 hours later.
“In all fairness I want to state that Ajit Pawar took an oath with me with honesty... but later on their (NCP’s) strategy changed,” Fadnavis said, during an event organised by TV9 news channel.
Responding to Fadnavis’ remarks, Sharad Pawar said, “I felt that Devendra is a cultured person and a gentleman. I never felt that he will take recourse to falsehood and make such a statement.”
The war of words also spread to social media, where official handles of the two parties and their workers trained guns at each other.
The Maharashtra BJP tweeted, “Sharad Pawar should not forget one thing that because Fadnavis is a wise person, he remained quiet so far. It was you who had given a message that BJP-NCP government can be formed.”
“You wanted something else hence you took a somersault and changed the decision,” it said.
Further targeting the former Union minister, the saffron outfit asked, “What kind of argument you had with Ajit Pawar a night before the swearing in ceremony? Ajit Pawar had come to Silver Oak (senior Pawar's residence in Mumbai) to meet you before going to Raj Bhavan. Your morning tweet on that day was also a lie. Ajit Pawar had told you categorically to come for the swearing in ceremony.”
Continuing its attack on the 82-year-old Rajya Sabha MP, the BJP said, “He does not have any right to talk about true and untrue things. To prove himself, he has always taken the support of some kind of lie. Your history reveals you have always backstabbed for your own gains.”
The NCP Twitter handle quickly responded to the BJP and said no validation is needed for the party chief's towering political career.
“Your own national leader (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) calls Pawar as his own Guru. We do not need any certificate from you to validate towering career of Pawar," said the main Opposition party.
The BJP Twitter handle countered the NCP, saying, “If he (Sharad Pawar) was such a towering personality, why could he not win more than 60 MLAs in any election (in Maharashtra)? If his career was so great, why was he always referred as future prime minister of the country.”
The BJP had won 105 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the results of which were announced on October 24, 2019. The Shiv Sena, which was in an alliance with the BJP, won 56 seats. Despite having enough seats to form a government together, the two allies bickered over power-sharing – who will get the chief minister’s post being the bone of contention – resulting in the Shiv Sena starting negotiations with the ideologically different Congress and NCP instead.
With no outcome in sight then, the Centre imposed President’s Rule in Maharashtra on November 12. The Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP continued negotiations to form an alliance, and Sharad Pawar later announced that Uddhav Thackeray had been unanimously chosen to head the new government. Thus, the early morning oath-taking ceremony of Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar on November 23 came as a surprise.
In one of the biggest political surprises in Maharashtra, then Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari swore in Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister and Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister. The ministry lasted three days, after which Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the chief minister.