Ending speculations, NCP's Sharad Pawar said it will not bail out the BJP if Shiv Sena pulls out
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar today said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray recently met him and they discussed the need for an "alliance of like-minded parties" in the country.
"Uddhav, accompanied by (party leader) Sanjay Raut, met me at my Mumbai residence 10 days ago," Mr Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a two-day brainstorming session of the NCP at a resort in Karjat, Maharashtra.
"We also discussed the need for an alliance of all like-minded parties in the country," he said, indicating the parties opposing the BJP's policies.
"I felt that he (Thackeray) is not keen on continuing with the (BJP) alliance in the state, but they did not indicate whether they would withdraw support. However, in case, it (Shiv Sena) leaves the government, we shall not be available to bail them (BJP) out," Mr Pawar said, burying all speculation on this count.
He said the NCPs' stand is clear -- it will not go to support anybody though it has always stood for joining hands with like-minded parties, but said that there was no discussion with Mr Thackeray on this issue.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik later told IANS that the Sena is dissatisfied with its alliance with BJP at the centre and in Maharashtra, but it has yet to take a stand on whether it will continue or walk out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
However, despite Mr Pawar's statements, the Shiv Sena maintained silence.
Ties between the BJP and the Sena came under severe pressures last month after former Chief Minister Narayan Rane left Congress and launched his own Maharashtra Swabhimaan Party, which joined the NDA as a prelude to Mr Rane's induction as a cabinet minister in an expected reshuffle to be carried out by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Mr Pawar's statement came a day after NCP leader Praful Patel said at the chintan shibir that Mr Pawar could be in the race for Prime Minister after the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
However, he asked party leaders to "banish the idea of him becoming the PM" and instead work hard on building and expanding the NCP.
Five days ago, Mr Thackeray and his son Aditya had called on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who appreciated the Sena's stance of criticising the BJP as "doing the right thing."