A meeting that went too far
Speculation is rife over real purpose of Fadnavis-Raut meeting; NCP boss Sharad Pawar chose to meet CM Uddhav Thackeray a day after it
Opposites always attract public attention when they meet secretly. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena's blazing gun Sanjay Raut evoked unprecedented traction in the media and political circles on Saturday after the world knew about their prolonged luncheon at a star hotel in Mumbai.
The reactions spoke of a variety of possibilities, one among them being the friends-turned-foes finding a way out to sail through the future together again. While taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) single-handedly, Raut has been at the centre-stage right from the moment the thought of the Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress coming together started shaping up a year ago. The editor-politician has represented his party president Uddhav Thackeray in the negotiations that led to the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, which ultimately has turned into an embarrassment for the BJP that has toppled state governments elsewhere, but hasn't really made a breakthrough despite making covert efforts to make it possible in Maharashtra. Little wonder then, that NCP boss Sharad Pawar chose to meet CM Thackeray a day after the Fadnavis-Raut meeting, sparking further gossip.
Speculation is rife over the real purpose of the Fadnavis-Raut meeting because of political conditions in which the two leaders met on Saturday. The BJP has made Sena a prime target in the Sushant Singh Rajput death controversy which refuses to die anytime soon. Raut himself was in the opposition's firing line, defending his party bosses using all his communication skills that did not spare who's who in the BJP. The BJP leaders have accused Raut of writing nasty things against them even otherwise. Fadnavis has said repeatedly that he doesn't read Saamana, which is the Sena warplane used for carpet bombing the frenemy. And a day before they met, Fadnavis and Raut exchanged barbs over farm bills and Bihar elections.
Fadnavis speaks of conditions
Fadnavis avoided making a comment on Saturday, keeping the suspense open for varied interpretations, but clarified a day after they discussed an interview to be given to the Sena mouthpiece Saamana, which Raut edits. "I had my conditions when Raut asked me for an interview. I wanted my team to record it," he said, adding, "We are in no hurry to form the government. This government will fall because of internal contradictions."
Raut said Fadnavis wasn't his enemy and meeting him wasn't a crime. "I want to interview not only Fadnavis but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. I have planned a series of interviews after publishing Thackeray and Sharad Pawar's interactions," he said, adding that Thackeray knew about the meeting. "Nothing can cause the collapse of this government. Uddhav Thackeray will remain the CM for five years," he said.
Keeping NCP in check?
Yet, the explanations coming from both sides did not stop tongues wagging. Sarcastic people complimented the interviewer and interviewee for being so meticulous and professional in planning the proposed interview which is expected to happen after Fadnavis returns from Bihar where he is in charge of the assembly elections which will be over with results on November 10.
Some informed political wags said the leaders were following their respective high command's wishes of cozying up and cleansing the bitterness before things start moving fast. Some political observers interpreted the development as the Sena's move to keep the NCP's designs in check because the two partners have strained relations lately over certain policy issues and decisions. This coalition is no exception when it comes to trust deficit. Every action provokes a reaction. Sharad Pawar kept away from meeting Thackeray for a couple of months, but returned in action recently with a series of interactions. His meeting with the CM on Sunday also became a talking point against the background of his trusted man in the Sena, Sanjay Raut, warming up to Fadnavis, who attempted to break the NCP last year.
It is for sure that the BJP, as the opposition, will never cease creating problems for the MVA, which should be compounding its woes if it does not play as a team, and delivers a good for Maharashtra till it gets to rule. The novel Coronavirus pandemic has exposed most governments across the globe for their poor projections and preparations. Our governments in the Centre and state are no exception, and friction between them may be a political necessity for stakeholders. The question is: does it do any better for the people?
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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