‘Did Sharad Pawar hold talks with BJP in 2017-2019 out of ED fear?’, asks Fadnavis on allegations about NCP’s Ajit faction

Devendra Fadnavis was responding to a question in Mumbai after the NCP faction led by the Sharad Pawar denied the party’s role in the imposition of President’s rule in Maharashtra in 2019.

Dismissing allegations that the NCP faction led by Ajit Pawar had joined the BJP to escape action by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Thursday asked if the Sharad Pawar-led party had in previous years held talks with the BJP only out of such fear.

“The NCP-led by Sharad Pawar had declared support to the BJP in 2014. In 2017, the NCP held talks with the BJP for government formation. Again in 2019, the NCP under Sharad Pawar’s leadership engaged in a dialogue with the BJP. Were these talks held out of fear of inviting central agencies action? If not, why is a senior leader like Sharad Pawar making allegations against the Ajit Pawar-led faction, which is part of the government,” Fadnavis asked.

“Such allegations are baseless. Ajit Pawar himself explained why they wanted to associate with the BJP,” he added. In July, Ajit had explained that the group under him wanted to be part of the developmental politics pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Fadnavis was responding to a question in Mumbai after the NCP faction led by the senior Pawar denied the party’s role in the imposition of President’s rule in Maharashtra in 2019. On Wednesday, Sharad Pawar also alleged that some of his close colleagues had told him that they were going to join the BJP to avoid central agencies’ probe.

On Thursday Fadnavis said, “Every word I uttered on Wednesday regarding Sharad Pawar is true and I stand by it.” In 2019, he continued, ” Sharad Pawar had given consent for President’s rule.”

“The question I wish to ask them (Sharad Pawar faction) is why were you holding talks with the BJP in 2019. Was it out of ED fear? Under Sharad Pawar’s leadership, the NCP had engaged in alliance talks with the BJP in 2017 and 2019. I want to ask… Was it done out of fear of central agencies’ action,” he sought to know.

“All NCP MLAs had given in writing their consent to join the BJP-led government in Maharashtra. And Sharad Pawar knows it well. Therefore, to say that the Ajit Pawar-led faction joined the BJP coalition to avoid ED action is unfair,” he said,

While speaking to a media channel on Wednesday, Fadnavis had indicated that BJP and NCP government formation talks were under Sharad Pawar’s leadership. It was on Pawar’s suggestion that President’s rule was enforced, he had revealed.

However, NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase dismissed the statements and termed them incorrect. “The President’s rule was a central government decision. Any insinuation that the decision was influenced by Sharad Pawar is false and misleading.”

Asked about the ongoing talks of Ajit Pawar replacing Eknath Shinde as chief minister soon, Fadnavis told reporters, “All these speculations about change of guard are baseless.” Asked about Shinde’s visit to Delhi on Thursday, Fadnavis said, ” He will attend the chief ministers’ meet convened to discuss Naxal issues.”

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