Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said he feels the three Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies - Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress - should fight the 2024 Maharashtra Assembly elections together, but a decision on it will be taken only after the issue is discussed with the leaders of his party as well as the alliance partners.
On the decision to rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad districts taken in the last cabinet meeting of the Uddhav Thackeray-led government, Mr Pawar said the issue was not part of the MVA's common minimum programme, and he came to know about the decision only after it was taken.
Mr Pawar, who is on a two-day tour of Aurangabad, was speaking to reporters here.
Responding to a query about whether the MVA parties should fight the next assembly elections in the state together, he said, "It is my personal wish that the MVA constituents should contest the future polls together...But this is my personal opinion. I will first have a discuss the issue with my party leaders and talks can then be held with the alliance partners." The MVA government led by Uddhav Thackeray collapsed on June 29, days after his party Shiv Sena faced a rebellion launched by senior leader Eknath Shinde. On June 30, Mr Shinde took oath as the chief minister, while BJP's Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as his deputy. Mr Shinde enjoys the support of 40 rebel Sena MLAs.
Taking a dig at the rebel Sena MLAs over the reasons cited by them for their revolt, Mr Pawar said, "The dissident legislators don't give any fixed reason. Sometimes they talk about Hindutva, sometimes about funds." Following their revolt, the rebel MLAs have been saying that they went against the Sena leadership as the party was going away from the cause of Hindutva. Some of them also talked about not getting funds for their constituencies.
"All reasons - Hindutva, NCP, and lack of development funds - given by the rebel Sena legislators as an explanation for their decision holds no meaning," the NCP supremo said.
Mr Pawar claimed that he was absolutely unaware of the decision to rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad as Sambhanjinagar and Dharashiv respectively.
"Renaming these places was not part of the common minimum programme of the MVA. I came to know only after the decision was taken. It was taken without prior consultation. Opinions were expressed by our people during the cabinet meeting over the proposal. But the decision was that of the (then) chief minister (Thackeray)," Mr Pawar said.
Had any decisions about Aurangabad's welfare been taken, people would have been happy, he added. Talking about the speculation that some Congress MLAs in Goa may cross over to the ruling BJP, the former Union minister asked how can one forget what happened in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. "According to me, it took a long time for Goa," he said.
When asked about the delay in the formation of the Mr Shinde-led government's cabinet, he said it could be because of the Supreme Court's hearing scheduled on Monday.
The Supreme Court will hear the plea of Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu seeking suspension from assembly of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs against whom disqualification pleas are pending. The vacation bench of the court had on June 27 granted interim relief to the Shinde faction by extending the time for replying to the disqualification notices sent to 16 rebel Sena MLAs till July 12.
But Mr Pawar declined to speculate on the top court's verdict on the petitions of disqualification of rebel MLAs and the Thackeray-led Sena challenging the floor test.
"I have faith in the judiciary. The court will decide tomorrow to whom the Shiv Sena belongs," he said. He also refused to predict how long the Shinde-led government will last. "Let's see how the government takes decisions," he said.
Replying to a query about the proposal to appoint twelve members to the Legislative Council pending with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Mr Pawar said, "The MVA government kept persuading the governor for allowing speaker's election for a year. On the contrary, he took a decision about the new government within 48 hours," he said.
"The governor will now appoint the twelve members. In fact, discussion on it is also taking place," Mr Pawar added.
Responding to a query about Uddhav Thackeray's leadership qualities, Mr Pawar said his ill-health put restrictions on his movement.
"I don't think Uddhav Thackeray will go with the BJP," he said when asked about reports of Milind Narvekar, Mr Thackeray's close aide, meeting Mr Fadnavis.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)