Karad, Maharashtra: Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan today blamed his party's split with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party or the NCP on what he called the latter's "demonic aspirations and lust for power."
"The aspirations of the leadership had split the Congress party in 1999. Mr Pawar wanted to become the prime minister. This is aspiration to achieve a high office, going after power...is it right to break the secular alliance just for the sake of getting chief ministership?" Mr Chavan said, referring to Mr Pawar's exit from the Congress in 1999 to launch his own party.
In Mumbai, Mr Pawar blamed Mr Chavan for the collapse of the 15-year-old alliance. He told NDTV that it was in fact the Congress that seemed to have made up its mind to contest the elections without the NCP.
"The Congress announced and released a list of candidates without discussing with us...we initiated the talks. We were eager. The NCP has always honoured coalition dharma," he said.
The Congress-NCP split was announced last week barely an hour after the BJP said it was breaking up with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, also over seat sharing for the October 15 Maharashtra elections. Mr Chavan had questioned the timing alleging that Mr Pawar's party was exploring a partnership with the BJP, which now leads a government at the Centre.
"The NCP is withdrawing candidates and is openly supporting the BJP," Mr Chavan alleged on September 26.
Both the NCP and the BJP have vehemently denied any such move, but the Shiv Sena, dumped by the BJP after 25 years in alliance, has made similar allegations. "They haven't communicated anything to me about a tie-up with NCP after state polls. But the rumours are flying thick and fast," Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray told NDTV.
The Congress and the NCP ruled Maharashtra in an often uneasy partnership for 15 years, backing each other through controversies. But the gloves are off now that they are contesting elections as rivals.
Mr Chavan, who was accused by the opposition of protecting NCP leader and his deputy Ajit Pawar in a corruption case, said, "I did not give any clean chit to Ajit Pawar. That is for the courts to give. I just initiated a white paper the irrigation department itself produced. I did not produce the white paper. There was a demand in the white paper for the institution of an inquiry, which was instituted. Now, further action will be taken. I cannot take anyone into handcuffs. He gave a clean chit to himself. "
Sharad Pawar has said the accusations against his nephew in the multi-crore irrigation scam are unfair.