WARDHA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday targeted NCP chief Sharad Pawar, saying there was infighting in his party, which was slipping from his control.
Launching the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance's poll campaign in Maharashtra at a public rally here, Modi said Pawar decided not to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls after realising that the situation was not in his favour.
"Pawar decided against contesting the polls sensing the situation was not favourable. There is infighting in the NCP. The party is slipping from Pawar's grip," he said.
"There was a time when he (Pawar) would think he too can be the prime minister. He had also declared he would contest the poll. But suddenly, one day, he said he was happy in the Rajya Sabha, and that he would not contest," Modi said.
"Sharad Pawar ji is also aware which way the wind is blowing. This time, the people of the country have forced big guns to run, leaving the (election) ground," Modi said.
Pawar's "another problem" was that the NCP was struck by the "family feud", he said.
"Pawar's grip on the party is loosening. The situation is that Pawar Sahab's nephew (Ajit Pawar) is trying to take control of the party. Because of this, the NCP faced problems in ticket distribution," he claimed.
Modi also accused Pawar, a former Union agriculture minister, of ignoring problems of farmers "despite being a farmer himself".
"Today Pawar sahab has been bowled by people. His false promises have been exposed and he has been hit-wicket by his nephew," he said. Modi also accused Pawar of encouraging dynastic rule. NCP's senior leaders were being compelled to retire," he added.
Responding to Modi's remarks, the NCP hit back, saying the party knew how to respect elders in its fold unlike Modi's BJP which unceremoniously dropped someone as senior as party patriarch L K Advani.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Modi attacked Pawar out of frustration after seeing what he claimed was an empty rally ground at Wardha.
"And on top of that, Pawar saheb is president of the (NCP) party. People are seeing what treatment you (Modi) have meted to your leader Advani saheb, who brought you into politics, made you chief minister, made you a leader," Malik said.
Dismissing Modi's charge that Pawar ignored farmers, Malik said the NCP's chief's contribution to agriculture was there for everyone to see.
Malik accused the prime minister of raising the same issues that he had done five years ago, and asked "so, what have you done in the past five years".
After Modi indulged in cricketing wordplay to say Pawar was out "hit wicket" thanks to his nephew, Malik went on the front foot, so to say, declaring that the upcoming polls would see people claiming BJP's "wicket".
Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule termed as "unfortunate" Modi's criticism of the veteran leader.
Sule, who is seeking re-election from Baramati parliamentary constituency in western Maharashtra, said the prime minister should have instead spoken on core issues and development.
"It was unexpected of the prime minister to have said so. It is unfortunate for one whose party doesn't respect the elderly to have said so. He was expected to speak on the core issues and development," Sule said.
Sule also dismissed the PM's contention that there were camps within the Nationalist Congress Party.
"Our party takes decision after consulting all its leaders and workers," she added.
Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council and senior NCP leader Dhananjay Munde also took up the fight on behalf of his party and asked Modi to not be worried about the Pawar family or the NCP.
"Attention should rather be paid to what treatment the prime minister has meted to senior leaders in his own party," Munde said.