Pawar Plays the Maharashtra Card
Lynchpin of Maharashtra coalition
One of the few leaders who has refused to be politically locked down is Maharashtra’s Sharad Pwar who remains in good form ever since he prevented the Bharatiya Janata Party from forming the government in his home state. Despite his age and ailments Pawar, who is perceived in political circles as the ‘power’ keeping teh Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition together, does not miss an opportunity to take on the BJP.
Most recent is his play on the age old Maharashtra-Gujarat rivalry, with the BJP seen as a largely pro-Gujarat party in the neighbouring state. Pawar has expressed concern about the decision of the central government to locate the office of the International Financial Services Centre Authority in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. “This is not proper … I am disturbed” he said on May 2, Maharashtra formation day, to caution the Delhi rulers about the decision.
“Pant pradhan padavaril vyaktine aaplya rajyacha nave tar deshacha vyapak vichar kela paahije ( person occupying the prime minister’s position should think of national interests , beyond interests of his state), “ Pawar was quoted by a leading Marathi daily.
The Union Finance Ministry has established the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, as per the notification. This will regulate all financial services in the country. Earlier in 2015 it was stated that IFSCA would be situated at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Interestingly, rumours fuelled by political parties have created considerable suspicion within Maharashtra about the BJP’s intention to separate Mumbai and declare it a Union Territory.
Pawar has for long been one to set the cat among the pigeons. For instance, he did not oppose the bullet train seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project but instead asked why it was being run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and not between Mumbai and New Delhi, or Nagpur to Mumbai, or Mumbai to Chennai.
Pawar’s move to play the Marathi pride card along with Mumbai’s development in the midst of Covid 19 has created unease amongst his opponents. A few days ago he wrote a letter to PM Modi seeking “suitable” financial assistance to help Maharashtra overcome the challenges created by the Pandemic. He said that because of this the state would face a shortfall of Rs 1 lakh crores and urged the centre to release additional grants of the amount to Maharashtra.
The Nationalist Congress Party leader cited the examples of the United States of America, Australia, Spain, France and other countries pointing out that these had all released financial packages of approximately 10 per cent of the GDP. In fact Pawar has been writing fairly regularly to the Prime Minister, on aspects connected with the Pandemic. One letter was solely on agrarian distress, urging immediate central relief for the suffering farmers. He said that the pandemic has disrupted agricultural operations and needs immediate attention.
Politically, Pawar is also working at weakening the BJP which had tried hard to marginalise the NCP by making inroads in Western Maharashtra through defections before the state assembly polls. He is now working at a consolidation of Maratha-Dalit constituencies, and has taken a firm stand against the arrests connected with the Bhima Koregaon violence in 2018. He has spoken in favour of an enquiry into the arrests made during the DAevendra Fadnavis government, and has said that he is willing to appear before it as well.
Pawar, source said, remains the lynchpin of the coalition government in Maharashtra and continues to enjoy “excellent” relations with Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray.