Lobbing a surprise political googly, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday said the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party should have allied much earlier for the benefit of the people of Maharashtra. "Why did we, Ajit-dada (Pawar) and me (the Sena) unnecessarily stay apart all these years? We should have united much earlier. But now that we are together, I assure the people that we (the Maha Vikas Aghadi government) will not rest till we develop the state," Thackeray said as several NCP leaders smiled broadly and the crowds responded enthusiastically.
The CM was speaking at the 390th birth anniversary celebrations of the great Maratha warrior king, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, at his birthplace in the historic Shivneri Fort, built on the hills in Junnar, Pune district. Thackeray was joined by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Ministers of State Aditi Tatkare and Dattatray Bharne and NCP MP Amol Kolhe and MLA Atul Benke, other leaders and activists.
Thackeray's statement came a day after the Sena-NCP-Congress appeared to be veering around to an uneasy truce after the recent fracas over the Centre's decision to hand over the sensitive Elgar Parishad Koregaon-Bhima case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
In a significant assertion, Thackeray said on Tuesday that the Elgar Parishad and Koregaon-Bhima cases are separate and while the first has gone to the NIA, the second will not be transferred to the Central probe agency, sending relief among the three ruling partners. Virtually endorsing the CM's statement, NCP President Sharad Pawar raised the matter at his media briefing with similar comments made by Congress.
Addressing the Shiv Jayanti function, Ajit Pawar took a swipe at the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party saying: "We are witnessing a unique feeling today that a peoples' government has truly come to power in Maharashtra. This is the first time we are seeing so much enthusiasm, especially from the youth, on this occasion."
Both Thackeray and Ajit Pawar reiterated that there are no tensions among the MVA partners, scotching speculation to the contrary.
When someone from the crowds shouted - "Pay attention to the Shivaji Memorial," Thackeray laughed and replied: "Yes. Don't worry... This is the peoples' government and we are looking at everything."
He announced a Rs 23-crore fund for the urgent preservation and development of the Shivneri Fort to different departments like the forest, archaeology and PWD to take up the works.
"This amount will be cleared today itself. When Uddhav Thakeray assumed responsibility as CM, his first decision was to allot Rs 20 crore for the preservation of Raigad Fort, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's capital," said Ajit Pawar.
Referring to the recent simmering spat among the three allies, the DCM said that the leaders of all parties carefully weigh every issue before taking decisions intended to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state.