At the same time, the Maratha strongman somewhat ambivalently remarked that Mr. Bhujbal’s arrest would not have “any effect on the NCP’s strength whatsoever”.
“If he [Mr. Bhujbal] is indeed guilty of the charges against him, then he will duly have to suffer punishment…but if he is proven innocent, the BJP will have to pay for pressurizing the enforcement agencies,” said Mr. Pawar in Satara, on the sidelines of a function.
Mr. Pawar further accused Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of “regionalism” by projecting the ongoing drought as one which only affected the rain-shadow regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada, whereas even Western Maharashtra was reeling under its onslaught.
Mr. Bhujbal, a former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with multi-crore graft cases lodged against him in March this year. To add to the NCP’s woes, a Damocles’ Sword is hanging over top leaders Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare who are under the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) scanner for their alleged involved in the multi-crore irrigation scam.
With the NCP top brass thus weighed down under a cloud of corruption, Mr. Pawar had eagerly offered unsolicited outside support to the then minority BJP government which came to power after the October 2014 Assembly polls even as the BJP’s traditional ally, the Shiv Sena, dithered.
To reinforce his newfangled ‘affinity’ with the BJP, Mr. Pawar hosted Prime Minister Modi and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his stronghold Baramati on separate, purportedly ‘non-political’ occasions where both parties lavished praise on each other.
These ‘informal visits’ came at a time whenever the alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in the State faced a serious threat of a rupture.