Amid strains in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi alliance over Rahul Gandhi’s strident criticism of V D Savarkar, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has stepped in to play the peacemaker by conveying Shiv Sena’s concerns on the issue to the Congress leadership.
Opposition leaders said Congress has agreed to tone down its criticism of Savarkar, which has led to unease in the NCP and the Shiv Sena (UBT), its alliance partners in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said he had raised the Savarkar issue in his talks with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi and MVA partners are on the same page on this matter.
“MVA alliance is intact. If anyone thinks the MVA will break apart, they are wrong,” Raut told reporters here.
Gandhi is learnt to have assured Raut he would avoid any critical reference to Savarkar.
Pawar raised the issue during a meeting of opposition leaders convened by Kharge on Monday and made it clear that targeting Savarkar, a revered figure in Maharashtra, would not help MVA, two leaders who attended the meeting told PTI.
Former Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present at the meeting.
“Almost all opposition leaders were of the view that there was no need to rake up the Savarkar issue. We have to decide whether we have to fight Modi or Savarkar and not create confusion,” Raut said after a meeting of parliamentarians owing allegiance to the Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena.
Pawar also told Rahul Gandhi that Savarkar was never a member of the RSS and underscored that the real fight of the opposition parties was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP.
Opposition leaders said Rahul told the meeting that the Savarkar issue was an ideological position.
Leaders of Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi also reached out to the Thackeray faction Shiv Sena.
As the BJP stepped up attack on Rahul Gandhi and sought his apology for “maligning” India on his recent visit to the UK, the former Lok Sabha member from Wayanad said at a press conference on Saturday that he was not Savarkar and would not apologise.
Former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray slammed Rahul Gandhi for his attack on Savarkar and said his outfit will not tolerate any insult of the freedom fighter.
The Thackeray faction had skipped the meeting convened by Kharge as a mark of protest against Gandhi’s remarks targeting Savarkar.