Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s interview by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut in the Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana was merely a stunt to increase the sales of that newspaper, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Chandrakant Patil said on Monday.

Speaking in Kolhapur, Mr. Patil said that Mr. Pawar, through the much-publicised interview, was trying to send a signal that the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition of the Sena, the NCP, and the Congress would complete its full five-year term.

Responding to allegations over the BJP attempting to subvert the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan, Mr. Patil said the Congress leadership had perhaps failed to inspire confidence in several of their MLAs.

‘Modi’s leadership’

“It is consequently possible that these [Congress] legislators in Rajasthan are influenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership…we shall soon come to know whether Deputy Chief Minister [and president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee] Sachin Pilot joins the BJP or not,” the Maharashtra BJP chief said.

Mr. Patil further refuted suggestions on the BJP engineering an ‘operation lotus’ in States like Karnataka, Goa and Madhya Pradesh to topple the non-BJP governments there, maintaining that the parties in those respective States had not been successful in winning the trust of their legislators, which had in turn caused them to gravitate towards the BJP.

Slamming the BJP’s erstwhile saffron ally, the Sena, for joining hands with the ideologically opposed NCP and the Congress to form the MVA government in Maharashtra, he said the BJP never lusted for power.

‘Political ploy’

In his three-part interview in the Marathi daily, Mr. Pawar had said that his offer of supporting the BJP from the outside to form a stable government in Maharashtra following the 2014 Assembly polls was a “political ploy” directed at keeping the Sena away from its then ally.

“I challenge that if all four parties had contested the State Assembly polls separately, the BJP would have come out on top, while the NCP would have secured a mere 20 seats and the Congress a paltry 10,” said Mr. Patil, responding to Mr. Pawar’s statements.

He said that BJP Leader of Opposition and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had already cornered Mr. Pawar with his recent revelations of the NCP chief’s willingness to join hands with the BJP to form a government in the State after the latter’s schism with the Sena following the Assembly poll results in October.

“Now Mr. Pawar is claiming that his move in 2014 was a ploy to widen the distance between the Sena and the BJP. Mr. Fadnavis will reply to this as well in good time,” Mr. Patil said.

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