Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar met on Monday evening amid reports of a rift between the state’s ruling allies over the coronavirus crisis and a lockdown exit strategy for the state worst hit by the pandemic in India.
As the two leaders met at the Chief Minister’s Mumbai home Matoshree, speculation intensified on a strain in their ties over Mr Pawar’s suggestion that Maharashtra should reopen gradually and emerge from the indefinite shutdown to revive economic activities.
Mr Pawar, reports suggest, has been unhappy at Mr Thackeray’s reluctance to end the lockdown and actively explore his suggestions.
Both parties say the virus crisis and its impact on the state was discussed in the meeting.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut confirmed the meeting and tweeted that there was “no need to worry about the stability of the government”.
“Sharad Pawar and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met at Matoshri yesterday evening. The two leaders had a discussion for an hour and a half. If anyone is spreading news about the stability of the government, it is their stomach ache. The government is strong. No worries. Jai Maharashtra!!” – the tweet by Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP, was aimed at putting a lid on talk of a feud.
Hours before his talks with the Chief Minister, Mr Pawar had met with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
NCP leader Praful Patel, who accompanied Mr Pawar to that meeting, asserted that it was “just a courtesy meet”.
“It was only a courtesy meeting between Pawar saheb and honourable Governor, we went there just to have a cup of tea. Governor Saheb had invited Pawar Saheb for a tea. We were there just for courtesy there was no politics involved in this meet,” said Mr Patel, a former union minister.
But the meeting drew interest because Mr Pawar was among the prominent voices against Mr Koshyari’s “intervention” in the functioning of the state administration.
Recently, the governor had objected to a letter written by state Minister Uday Samant to the University Grants Commission recommending the scrapping of university exams.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, Mr Koshyari had said that “not conducting the final year examinations by universities amounts to breach of UGC guidelines”. He also asked Thackeray to issue suitable instructions to Mr Samant for his “unwarranted intervention”.
In the middle of this turmoil, BJP leader Narayan Rane also met the Governor, demanding the President’s Rule in the state, alleging that the Shiv Sena-led coalition government had failed to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.