NEW DELHI: Former Agriculture Minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised a few eyebrows, even as ally Congress avoided making a direct comment.
According to PMO sources, Modi and Pawar discussed the weak monsoon prediction, and its likely impact on the economy and agriculture sector.
However, the political importance of the meeting was not lost, particularly as it took place against the backdrop of the Congress not acting on Pawar’s suggestion for a leadership change in Maharashtra. The minister had made no bones about his displeasure over Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s functioning. The Congress-NCP coalition, which runs the government in the Western state, faired rather poorly in the Lok Sabha elections.
But Pawar’s repeated urgings to replace Chavan, preferably with former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, has not yielded results, with Chavan not only refusing to bow out, but also refusing to toe Pawar’s line on the coming Assembly elections. This being the context, Pawar’s meeting with Modi is being seen as the Maratha strongman’s tactic to put pressure on the Congress, which, no doubt, sends a message to the party that is not only facing a leadership crisis in the state of Maharashtra, but also at the national level. The Maharashtra Government’s move to extend reservation to Marathas and Muslims in the state has also drawn sharp criticism from a section of the Congress party. Pawar had issued a statement backing the reservation announcement.