Behind closed doors: Pawar, Tawde meeting raises eyebrows

The meeting of former Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and HRD minister Vinod Tawde at the SPPU yesterday set political circles abuzz, coming at a time when there is ambiguity over the NCP-BJP ‘alliance’

With NCP chief Sharad Pawar sending out mixed messages — by asking his workers to prepare for mid-term polls and then stating the next day that the party was not out to pull down the Devendra Fadnavis government — a closed door meeting between Ajit Pawar and HRD minister Vinod Tawde has set political circles abuzz.

Ajit Pawar and Vinod Tawde

The former deputy CM and Tawde met at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) for nearly an hour. While political implications of the meeting were on everybody’s minds, both leaders maintained that Pawar had met Tawde, whose portfolios include sports, in his capacity as the president of the Maharashtra Olympic Association. They said the meeting was held to discuss various issues related to the organisation.

Deputy CM Ajit Pawar
Is something cooking? HRD minister Vinod Tawde (below) and former deputy CM Ajit Pawar at Savitribai Phule Pune University yesterday

After the meeting, Pawar, who was initially reluctant to speak to reporters, said, “See, this (the university) is not the place to discuss political things. Minister Tawde had given me an hour and I discussed various issues with him, including plans of our previous government to increase the sports infrastructure in the state.”

Vinod Tawde

On the question of NCP’s outside support to the BJP government in the state, Pawar said, “How many times will the media ask the same question? We have already made it clear that we had announced our outside support to ensure that the state gets a stable government.”

When Tawde was asked the same question in a press conference before the meeting, he had asked reporters to talk to NCP leaders about it.

LBT tussle
Before elections, the BJP had said that it would do away with the Local Body Tax (LBT), which is the main source of revenue for municipal corporations in the state. However, now the government has said that LBT would remain until the Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime is introduced. Tawde said, “BJP is firm on its stand of abolishing LBT. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will take a final call on it.”

Pawar, however, took potshots at the government over the issue, “When you are in the opposition, it is easy to make promises. The BJP had promised that it will do away with LBT and highway tolls. But now, the government is realising the problems,” he said.

Asked about corruption cases against NCP leaders, the former deputy CM said, “The state government has the right to conduct inquiries. Those found guilty should be punished and others should get a clean chit.”

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