Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole has sought to suggest the state government is keeping an eye over his movement and claimed that Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party feel the ground was slipping from beneath their feet due to his party's growing influence.
As his 'under watch' statement created a controversy, Patole on Monday claimed wrong information was being spread through the media and asserted there was no dispute among MVA allies and the Congress was being deliberately targeted.
Reacting to Patole's suggestion that his movement was being tracked, the NCP, which handles the home department, said his claim was based on incomplete information, while the Shiv Sena asserted that all was well in the ruling alliance.
Wading into the row, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and deputy CM Ajit Pawar should give explanation on the allegations made by Patole.
It all started with a speech the state Congress president gave in Lonavala, a hill station around 125km from Mumbai, during the weekend.
Speaking at a meeting of party workers in Lonavala, Patole said the Congress is resurrecting itself in Maharashtra and this has caused disquiet among the Shiv Sena and the NCP.
The MPCC did not name the two MVA partners while making a reference about them in his speech.
The Congress is part of the three-party Shiv Sena-led MVA government.
He also sought to hint that the government is keeping an eye on his activities.
"Every morning at 9, intelligence report is submitted to the chief minister and the home minister on what is happening in the state. The Congress is resurrecting itself and the report is making the ground beneath their feet slip away. I am here in Lonavala but the report will go to them," he said.
Patole later told a Marathi news channel that his statement hinting at tracking of his movement has been misconstrued.
"I have not made any comment that the state government is keeping a watch on me. My allegations were against the Centre," he said.
Meanwhile, the NCP said the allegations of Patole that he was under watch of the intelligence department were based on incomplete information.
Addressing a press conference, NCP spokesperson and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik said the police have a special department to report movements of important leaders, their meetings, political programmes and agitation.
This has been the long-standing practice irrespective of which party or alliance is in power. Relevant information is collected and a comprehensive report is submitted to the home department and the chief minister, he said.
"If Patole is unaware of this process, he should consult former CMs of the Congress - Ashok Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde, Prithviraj Chavan," Malik said.
The NCP minister said if Patole doesn't want police 'bandobast' (security arrangement) for himself or leaders of his party, he should make an application and the home minister would take a decision on that.
Congress leader and minister Balasaheb Thorat said, "I don't know what he (Patole) meant. He would be in a better position to explain."
Shiv Sena leader and minister Eknath Shinde sought to downplay Patole's remark and said the MVA was working well.
"The Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP alliance was working fine," he added.
Asked by journalists in Nagpur whether the Maharashtra CM or the deputy CM will be speaking to him over his controversial statement, Patole said, "I will feel good talking with them."
"There is no dispute between us and if anyone is trying to create dispute through the media, it will be resolved through discussions. I will certainly like to talk to the CM and the Deputy CM," he said.
He said the Congress is becoming people's party in Maharashtra and the BJP is losing ground and hence "wrong news reports" are being circulated against his organization.
"I want to tell that the MVA government will complete its full 5-year term. The BJP, from the day MVA government came to power, has been saying that this government will fall.
"But, the government has completed almost two years and their intentions have not been successful. Hence, wrong news is being circulated," said Patole.
Answering a query on the Congress's future plan, he blasted the BJP, the main opposition party in Maharashtra.
"The Congress is fighting across the country and in Maharashtra it is protesting over the price rise issue for the last four days. The Congress is getting a huge support from people.
"The BJP has taken a note of it and hence with the help of the media, it is creating a picture of dispute between MVA allies. There is no dispute between the three parties," Patole said.
To a query whether some state Congress leaders are disappointed with him and are complaining to the central leadership, Patole said, "Our leaders are going to Delhi for their respective work."
"The Congress is being targeted and a particular person is being targeted, which means that person is becoming important in Maharashtra. People's support for the Congress is growing. There is no rift in the Maharashtra Congress and the party is working unitedly," he said.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis said in Nagpur that Patole' s statement indicates that the NCP and the Shiv Sena were uncomfortable with the Congress's claim of its growing popularity.
"Nana Patole' s statement indicates that the NCP and the Shiv Sena are afraid of the Congress's announcement of re-establishing itself on its own and hence they are keeping a watch on him.
"Now, the CM and the deputy CM should tell why they are so afraid, and why they are keeping a watch on him, " said Fadnavis.
Fadnavis was speaking to reporters after visiting the family of a Nagpur resident, Manoj Thawkar, who was allegedly beaten up by police and subsequently died. Police have denied the allegation.
"This incident is very serious, wherein a handicapped youth is beaten up with sticks just because he was not wearing a mask. I have seen the videos of eyewitnesses who claimed he was beaten up in public and again at a police station," the former CM said.
"It means this death occurred due to the police beating," he said and demanded action against the erring police personnel.
"The BJP on its part will give Rs 2 lakh assistance to the victim's family," Fadnavis said.