NCP chief Sharad Pawar said on Saturday Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray took the decision to ease the curbs during the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown at the right time and in his “cautious” style of functioning.
Pawar, in an interview to the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, insisted there is no difference of opinion between him and Uddhav Thackeray over the way the government brought in the relaxations during the lockdown.
This is the first time Saamana has interviewed a leader from some other party.
In the interview to Saamana’s executive editor and Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Pawar said he came to a conclusion that curbs should be gradually lifted to revive the economy after discussions with several people and brought it to the notice of the chief minister.
The Maharashtra government under its Mission Begin Again started relaxing lockdown norms from June and there were speculations that Thackeray was earlier unwilling to open up the state but Pawar intervened to get the curbs eased across the state.
Raut asked if there were any differences on lifting the lockdown referring to newspaper reports about them and Pawar refuted them.
“Absolutely not… During this entire situation, I have been in touch with the chief minister and am even today… During this time, I had discussions with labour bodies, business-owners etc. I formed an opinion based on that and brought it to the notice of the CM,” Pawar said.
“This is not called a difference of opinion. Delhi and Karnataka lifted relaxation, it faced issues but economic activities started again. Such steps have to be taken. If the entire state’s and the country’s economy is disrupted then the ill-effects will be far greater than coronavirus which the future generations will suffer,” he said.
Pawar said though some might think Thackeray delayed giving relaxations but they came at the right time. “The decision that came was true to the nature of the chief minister. Meaning, a decision should be taken but with caution. To take a step by seeing all sides, so that there is no need to go back on it,” he said.
In the first of the three-part interview published in Saamana, Pawar spoke also about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the changing nature of political activities after the coronavirus pandemic, his relationship with former Sena chief Bal Thackeray among other issues.
The Maratha strongman denied that he is either the “remote control” or the “headmaster” of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government amid a buzz that Pawar has been directing Thackeray from behind the curtains and running the government.
“I am neither. If headmaster, he’d have been part of the school. In a democracy, governments or administration do not function with remote control. It functions where there is no democracy,” he said giving an example of the political scenario in Russia.
The veteran leader denied that the alliance between the three parties—the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress—to form the government was an “accident”. Pawar pointed out that in the Lok Sabha elections last year there was no change but before the state assembly polls the people had decided to bring one.
He said Sena’s voters and supporters were uneasy during the BJP-Sena government between 2014 and 2019. He said the Sena paid a heavy price for its association with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“The BJP continuously took the stand to sideline Sena, keep it quiet. The Sena supporters were uneasy because of it. They functioned as if it was only a BJP government. Earlier too there was a Sena-BJP government under Manohar Joshi but the atmosphere was not like this then. The BJP sidelined the Sena and functioned as only they are the rulers. This did not go well with the people of Maharashtra,” he said.
Without naming former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Pawar said, “No political leader should take the people for granted saying ‘I will come back again’.”
He added the Sena had a major contribution in the BJP’s assembly tally of 105 seats. “Had it not been for the Shiv Sena, that number would have been around 40-50.”
Pawar also claimed that Bal Thackeray did not have the functioning style and ideology similar to the BJP.
“The functioning style of Balasaheb, whom I have known, was different than the ideology of the BJP. He respected the leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Pramod Mahajan,” he said.
“Through respect, the idea of forming government came forward. Secondly, the Shiv Sena had struggles with the Congress but it was never permanent, I think. Shiv Sena was never at loggerheads with the Congress,” he added.