State Congress deploys Sharad Pawar to win over Sonia Gandhi

Updated: Nov 11, 2019, 07:20 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

Local unit of ailing grand old party wants Maratha strongman to convince their boss to keep BJP out of power in key state

Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi
Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi

AS the governor invited the Shiv Sena to form government, state Congress leaders have urged NCP chief Sharad Pawar to get their party leader Sonia Gandhi's approval to support the saffron party to keep BJP away from power in Maharashtra.

Late last week, a section of senior Congress leaders meet Pawar at his Silver Oak residence in Mumbai. A senior Congress leader, seeking anonymity, told mid-day that the Congress was divided on whether to support Sena.

"Soniaji too has not given her consent for the same," said the leader. "The Congress is evaluating the pros and cons of supporting a party like the Sena, especially the impact of such a move outside Maharashtra."

The leader said if the Congress-NCP Democratic Front wanted to keep the BJP out of power, the only option was to support the Sena, citing past examples when the Congress had sought Sena's support.
For instance, it is said that the late Congress leader Murli Deroa was elected as mayor of Mumbai with the help of the saffron party. Also, late Sena chief Bal Thackeray, swayed by the Marathi connect, had supported Pratibha Patil as the first woman President of India.

Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut had met NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday

But, with no leader from the state in a position to convince Sonia, it is learnt that few Congress leaders from Maharashtra have urged the octogenarian NCP leader to mediate in the case."Pawarsaheb has been associated with the Gandhi family for a long period. NCP chief is the right person to discuss the current political scenario with the family and get approval from the high command," the leader said.

Seventeen days after results were declared, a new government is yet to be formed. The saffron alliance has got a clear majority of 161 seats in the 288-member House. But, the Sena has refused to support the BJP unless the latter honors the commitment it had apparently given before the Lok Sabha polls to share the CMO.

What is certain now is that if the Sena has to get DF support in Maharashtra, it will have to walk out from the central Modi government. Arvind Sawant is the Sena's lone central minister.

Critically, Thackeray had last week expressed his displeasure with the portfolio given to the Sena in the Union cabinet, indicating that he will not think much about pulling out. "Sena was not keen on the heavy industries ministry," said Thackeray. "I had conveyed the same to the BJP leadership in Delhi. Still we were allotted the same portfolio. Again, I made our displeasure clear to Amit Shah."

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