Prithviraj Chavan's claim that Sena/NCP leaders were in touch with the Congress in 2014 has created another controversy for the ruling alliance in Maharashtra.
Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore reports.
Just as the controversy sparked by Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut's statement that then prime minister Indira Gandhi met Karim Lala and Haji Mastan, dominant figures in the Bombay underworld in the 1960s and early 1970s, died down, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra faces another embarrassment of sorts.
Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan claims that Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party leaders approached the Congress after the 2014 assembly election when the Bharatiya Janata Party's Devendra Fadnavis was at the helm of a minority government in the state.
"I don't want to comment on it. I said whatever I have to say," Chavan tells Rediff.com when asked why he made the statement five years later when the three parties are part of the MVA.
The Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and BJP fought the October 2014 assembly election independently.
The election resulted in a hung assembly and the BJP and Sena had sparred over the chief minister's position then too.
Fadnavis formed a minority government while the Sena's Eknath Shinde was appointed Leader of the Opposition.
"If you look at the arithmetic, you will understand," says a senior Congress leader, who was privy to this discussion, speaking on condition of anonymity, "Though Fadnavis formed a minority government, the strength of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP was 146."
Expectedly, both Sena and NCP leaders have distanced themselves from Chavan's statement.
Anil Parab, transport minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, has dared Chavan to reveal the names of the Sena/NCP leaders who met him to discuss the possibility of a coalition, which, interestingly, has become a reality in 2019.
"The Shiv Sena and NCP have both denied that such a proposal was ever discussed between the three parties in 2014," says Parab.
Minority Affairs Minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik insists that such a proposal was never mooted in 2014.
"There was no such proposal discussed in 2014. Only he (Chavan) can say why this revelation is made now," says Malik.
Discussing Chavan's revelation six years later, the Congress leader privy to the discussion between the three parties, says, "If people don't want to believe Chavan, then that is their choice. Why should we betray the confidence of the people who contacted us by naming them?"
Explaining that Chavan's claim is genuine, the Congress leader says the three parties were in a position to undertake a similar exercise in 2014, which they ultimately did in 2019, because their MLAs then, as in 2019, added up to 146.
The Shiv Sena won 63 seats in 2014, with the Congress and NCP winning 42 and 41 seats respectively adds up to 146. The BJP then had 122 elected legislators in the Maharashtra assembly.
"Chavan may have said this to perhaps explain the contrast in the stance adopted by the Congress high command and senior Congress leaders in Delhi in 2014 and 2019," says the Congress leader.
After sparring over the chief minister's post in 2014, the BJP and Shiv Sena then entered into an uneasy alliance, ruling the state from October 2014 to October 2019.