PUNE: The Shiv Sena was in touch with the NCP and the Congress before the results of the Maharashtra assembly polls came out in October last year as it knew that the BJP would not keep its "promise", senior party leader Sanjay Raut claimed here on Wednesday.
Raut also said it was Sharad Pawar who first decided that the NCP, the Congress and the Sena will join hands to form a coalition government.
Notably, ahead of the formation of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), Pawar had always maintained that the NCP's mandate was to sit in opposition.
Raut made the disclosure during an interview to the Lokmat media group at its award function.
"It was (NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena coming together to form a coalition government) first decided by Sharad Pawar. I went to both the Congress and the NCP and consistently worked on this thought of coming together," he said.
When asked whether the three parties had decided about a coalition before the assembly poll results, which were declared on October 24, Raut replied, "You can say so".
"We knew it. In fact I was sure that the BJP will not keep its word (on sharing the post of chief minister with the Shiv Sena)," he said.
Responding to a query, the Rajya Sabha (RS) MP said the Sena had realised that the BJP would not keep its word when the party registered a massive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"A lot of things happened during the seat-sharing talks (with the BJP) for the assembly polls which made us believe that the BJP would not keep its promise," Raut claimed.
He also exuded confidence that the Sena-led coalition government will last the full five-year term.
"Our government is not like a test tube baby. It formally took birth, it was christened, and it will celebrate its birthday also," he said.
Raut said the Uddhav Thackeray-led government enjoys a strong support of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, and "unlike other multi-party governments it cannot be called as a 'khichadi sarkar".
He refuted claims that the Sena has accepted a secondary position in the government under Sharad Pawar.
"The formation of a government was necessary and all the three parties came together to give Maharashtra a new direction," Raut added.
When asked about the Sena suddenly joining hands with its traditional rivals Congress and NCP, Raut asked "are these two parties belonged to Pakistan?"
"There are political differences, but leaders from all the three parties love their country," he said.
Raut said the Congress could have gone much ahead (in numbers) "had its senior leadership in Delhi concentrated on the party stronghold of Maharashtra".
He further said that sharing of power in the coalition government was done on the basis of merit.
When asked why the Sena let the crucial Home ministry slip away to the NCP, he replied, "This is our government and who is the chief minister of the state?" "While we are running the government for five years, we are also planning for the next five years," he said.
Raut, however, refused to divulge information about unfolding of events in the run-up to formation of the government, which was the culmination of many dramatic twists and turns.
"Let somethings remain behind the curtains and let the picture go on," he said.
Raut also said a strong opposition is necessary to deepen democracy.
"There is a tradition, right from Yashwantrao (Chavan) to Pawar saheb to Balasaheb Thackeray. They ensured that good people from the Opposition get elected in the Assembly," he said.
He said the BJP is a strong opposition with 105 MLAs.
"There is a strength of 105 MLA which means there is a parallel government. The Opposition party should put a check on the government," he said.
Responding to a query, Raut said he knew that Ajit Pawar's move to join hands with the BJP and take oath as deputy CM in November last year would come unstuck.
"I was sure that efforts will be there (from the Opposition) to loosen the nuts and bolts of our vehicle, but I was sure that our vehicle will not skid as four wheels of the car were strong," he said referring to that development.
He rejected criticism of the Sena putting Hindutva on the backburner to mould itself due to compulsions of coalition politics.
"Who says the Congress party is not a Hindutva party? Mahatma Gandhi was the biggest Hindutva leader. I have not seen any leader more Hindutvawadi than Lokmanya Tilak," he said.
He said even Rahul Gandhi visits Somnath temple, tells his gotra, shows is sacred thread, "which is one of the values of Hinduism".
"Similarly, (late PM) Indira Gandhi used to follow Hinduism. Why do you think that everything other than the Sena is non-Hindutva," Raut added.
Raut said efforts should be made to bring 22 crore Muslims in the mainstream.
He rued that elections have been fought by dividing Hindus and Muslims for the last 70 years, and it will continue like that.