Even after the assembly election in 2019, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was not ready for a coalition with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena but she relented after long deliberations.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has revealed that the Shiv Sena had proposed to form a coalition government with his party and the NCP after the 2014 assembly election to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party from coming to power in the state. But the Congress had immediately rejected the proposal then, Chavan said. Even after the assembly election in 2019, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was not ready for a coalition with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena but she relented after long deliberations, he told PTI in an interview.
In November, the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress formed a coalition government in Maharashtra under the leadership of Thackeray. Asked what made the Congress join hands with the ideologically opposite Sena, Chavan said, “A similar situation emerged in 2014 as well. Then too, Shiv Sena and NCP had approached me to form a coalition government to stop the BJP. I immediately rejected the offer then and said winning and losing is normal in politics. In the past too, we lost elections and sat in the opposition.”
In 2014, BJP and Shiv Sena fought the Maharashtra polls without an alliance, so did Congress and NCP. After the elections, BJP ran the government but later Shiv Sena also joined it. Chavan alleged the Devendra Fadnavis government tried to “kill the opposition” and there was a “lot of corruption” in the state.
“During this time, efforts were made to destroy democracy. Around 40 MLAs of Congress and NCP were made to switch sides, people were blackmailed and lured with offers of government positions,” he claimed, adding that another term for the BJP would have “completely destroyed democracy”. “It was under these circumstances that we decided to change our role and thought about an alternative government. After a conflict between BJP and Shiv Sena, I initiated the move to form the alternative government and discussions about it began,” the senior Congress leader said.
“Initially, the party high command was not in favour of joining hands with Shiv Sena. Sonia ji and Congress leaders from Kerala did not agree. But I held discussions with all MLAs and other leaders of the party. It was accepted that the BJP is our number one ideological enemy and everyone agreed to form the alternative government,” Chavan said. Asked whether the coalition government in Maharashtra would last its full term, Chavan said, “Nobody can give a 100-per cent guarantee in case of a coalition government. However, we came together against the BJP because it tried to kill the opposition and betrayed the Shiv Sena.”
The former chief minister said there will not be a problem till the coalition partners have a common understanding. He, however, accepted that there will be issues in the day-to-day functioning of a government and there had been problems but the BJP is trying to “highlight the issues of the past.”
Asked to share his views on NCP leader Ajit Pawar, Chavan said Sharad Pawar made the decision that his nephew be the deputy chief minister. “It would not be right for me to comment on this.” On not joining the state cabinet, Chavan said, “Uddhav ji is chief minister, Ajit Pawar is deputy CM and Balasaheb Thorat the leader of the party,” and he “did not find it appropriate” to work at a lower position.
Chavan said he was offered the post of assembly speaker, however, to remain active in politics, he did not agree. He said he will accept whatever responsibility is given by the party leadership in future.