A three-hour courtesy visit by poll strategist Prashant Kishor to Sharad Pawar has led to widespread speculations of a possible third front against BJP under the leadership of the NCP president. The lunch meeting has national, as well as, regional ramifications against the background of interesting political signalling in Maharashtra. While NCP ally in the state, Shiv Sena has downplayed the meeting, both Kishor and Pawar refused to comment after the meet.
In view of the recent statement of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking unity of all regional Opposition leaders, the meeting is being seen as a precursor to the next Lok Sabha elections for drawing a strategy under the leadership of Sharad Pawar. However, there is no confirmation on this by any leader officially till now. But both Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar share a close rapport and have spoken vociferously for a joint opposition front against the BJP, which is not under the leadership of Congress’ Rahul Gandhi.
Kishor arrived at Pawar’s Silver Oak residence on Peddar Road in Mumbai at around 10.45 am. The meeting went on till around 2 pm. NCP state president Jayant Patil too joined the meeting for some time. While Deputy Chief Minister and Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar has refuted any speculations, Chhagan Bhujbal welcomed it. “Pawar saheb meets people from various fields. That doesn’t mean the party will take help from them in Centre or in the state,” said Ajit.
While Bhujbal said Prashant Kishor was a successful political strategist who had given advice to various political parties. “He is an expert in elections. If he has any suggestions, Pawar saheb will definitely hear him out,” he said in Nasik.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena downplayed the meeting as Sanjay Raut, in Nandurbar, said, “Prashant Kishor is a political strategist. He must have met him about some survey or to understand something. There is no need to pay so much attention to it.”
But Sena leader Arvind Sawant welcomed the meeting saying, “Congress is in a state of disarray, and that has helped the BJP. It is the need of the hour to have a strong opposition and a strong alternative to BJP. Sharad Pawar is the most experienced and studious leader. Balasaheb too wanted a Marathi manoos as a national leader. Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi was formed due to Sharad Pawar. We will only be happy to see him as the PM.”
The political atmosphere in Maharashtra too is volatile at this point, where Shiv Sena has been keen to show that BJP’s doors aren’t closed for it. Sharad Pawar had, in a rare public speech on Thursday, reminded the Sena of its reliability and trustworthiness. “Once Sena gives its word, it lives by it. On 1977, Sena had stood strongly behind Indira Gandhi after Balasaheb Thackeray had given his word. This government will complete its term of 5 years, and will work for vidhan sabha and lok sabha thereafter,” he had said. A few days ago, Devendra Fadnavis had held a closed door meeting with Sharad Pawar.