Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar on Monday met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the latter's residence and had a discussion for nearly 50 minutes. Coming out, Pawar sprang a surprise by telling the media that he did not discuss the issue of alliance with Shiv Sena or government formation in Maharashtra with Sonia Gandhi.
Later Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut called on Pawar and had closed-door discussion. There are indications that talks on government formation are making cautious progress. Pawar said he would talk about the political situation with other smaller allies like Peasants and Workers Party, Shetkari Sangathana and Samajwadi Party, saying this to be the only "new development in the old situation".
Sharad Pawar is an experienced politician, and he knows the political situation of his state inside out. Pawar first became the chief minister of Maharashtra 41 years ago, at the age of 38, the youngest chief minister of India at that time. It is for this chief minister's post that the Shiv Sena has broken its alliance with the BJP. Pawar knows what to speak, and to whom, and he always thinks ten steps ahead.
Look at the way in which he made remarks after the Maharashtra results were out. Pawar first said, BJP and Shiv Sena should form the government and the NCP and Congress would sit in the opposition. He then said, until and unless Shiv Sena breaks away from its alliance with the BJP, no talks can begin. Shiv Sena left the alliance, and three days ago, Pawar said that a coalition government will be formed soon and it will run its full term of five years. Though NCP leaders spoke about a coalition government with the Shiv Sena and Congress, Pawar did not mention Shiv Sena by name.
Pawar's remarks on Monday clearly indicate that any coalition government that will be formed in Maharashtra will be in accordance with the wishes of NCP. Pawar has played his game well, and the initiative appears to be slipping away from the hands of Shiv Sena. Congress is wary about its Muslim vote bank, and it is, therefore, following Pawar's advice closely. The wily Maratha leader has also kept the hopes of BJP alive, and this has now kept the Shiv Sena on tenterhooks.
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