Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party has extended crucial outside support to the BJP government in Maharashtra, on Monday said the decision was prompted by the need to avoid fresh elections but made it clear that the party will play the role of an effective Opposition.
Pawar said the decision to back the minority government was "conscious and collective" and not part of a "hidden deal" with BJP.
"We have not discussed our decision with anyone. It was a conscious and collective decision in the larger interest of the state. Nobody asked us for our support. BJP is free to not accept our support," he told a press conference.
Pawar said since Congress and NCP were not in a position to provide an alternative government, the only way to avoid a fresh poll was to back the BJP dispensation.
"The number game is such that there is no (possibility of) alternative arrangement. We don't want the state to go for another election immediately," he said.
Rubbishing suggestions that NCP had lent unconditional outside support to the BJP government as part of a "hidden deal", Pawar said," The government is free to investigate all the charges and allegations against NCP leaders so the truth can come out. If its decisions or bills are not people oriented, we will not support the government."
"Even though NCP will not destabilise the government, it will play the role of an effective Opposition," he said.
The NCP leader also slammed Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for his yesterday's remark on "saffron terror" attributed to him.
While issuing an ultimatum to BJP, Uddhav had said his party will sit in Opposition if the government took NCP's support for its survival as Pawar had spoken about "saffron terror".
In an apparent reference to Hyderabad-based the All India
Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen, which won two seats in Maharashtra Assembly, Uddhav had said, "Forces which are dangerous for Hindus have raised their head in recent Assembly polls. At such a time, if BJP wants to go with Pawar who spoke of saffron terror, we will sit in Opposition."
Pawar said, "How did this saffron terror issue come up? I had used the term a few years ago in the Malegaon blasts case. But that was not a hurdle when I took Pranab Mukherjee to Matoshree (the Thackeray residence) seeking support in the Presidential election."
The NCP chief said earlier he had sought Shiv Sena's support for Pratibha Patil in her Presidential bid which the party readily gave.
On Uddhav's comment holding him responsible for bringing down Atal Behari Vajpayee's 13-day-old government, Pawar said he being the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha at that time did what was expected of him.
"There is no need for others to advise us what we should do. Similarly, there is no need for BJP to accept or deny our support. What decision we take, we will implement and it will be recorded in the proceedings," Pawar said.
Replying to a question on whether NCP will abstain or vote on the Motion of Confidence to be moved by the government on Wednesday, Pawar said, "The decision will be taken by the Legislature Party on that day itself."
41-member NCP holds key to the survival of the Devendra Fadnavis government. Even if the 63-member Shiv Sena finally decides to sit in the opposition and votes against the government, the minority Fadnavis dispensation will sail through the trust vote with the help of either active voting by NCP or through abstention.
BJP has 121 MLAs in the Assembly with effective strength of 287, still 24 short of a majority. With the help of 7 independents and few others from smaller parties, it can reduce the gap but cannot bridge it completely.
Pawar, who had during the election campaign said his
party will only support a secular government, when asked whether he considered the Fadnavis dispensation as one, said his party had ideological differences with BJP which remain.
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to the electorate in Baramati, his home turf, to free themselves from the "yoke" of the Pawar clan, he said the margin of victory of his nephew and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit had increased over the previous election.
"So, we are thankful to Modi as people know how to react to such comments," he said.