Mumbai, July 27 (IANS) A telling picture of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar steering a golf cart with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sitting beside him, posted by the NCP leader on social media on Monday, raised eyebrows in the Shiv Sena.
The old picture carried the greeting: “Best wishes to the Hon. CM of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena President and MVA leader Uddhav Thackeray. Wish you a healthy & long life!”
However, much was more read into the file picture that grabbed all attention – coming barely a day after Thackeray proclaimed in an interview that “I hold the steering wheel” of the Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress government in the state.
More so, the 62-year old Ajit Pawar’s post came at midnight, and fuelled speculation on social media on its “hidden message” on the first-time Chief Minister’s 60th birthday from the fourth-time Deputy CM, barely five days after his own (Ajit Pawar’s) birthday on July 22.
Grilled on this by media persons, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut adroitly sidestepped it, saying that irrespective of what the picture shows, “it is the Shiv Sena’s vehicle” – clearly implying that the party was the de facto Big Brother of the MVA alliance government.
He added that given his vast experience, Ajit Pawar keeps giving “oil & water” to the vehicle (government) and ensures it keeps running at high speed.
On sarcastic remarks by Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis who compared the MVA to an autorickshaw, Thackeray had shot back saying he was in the driving seat and other two (allies) were sitting behind.
Pointing out that the government’s fate does not depend on the Opposition, Thackeray had asserted what is more important is the government is functioning properly “with balance”.
Hoping to mollify any ruffled feathers in the alliance, Ajit Pawar rushed to ‘Matoshri’ on Monday evening and personally greeted Thackeray on his birthday.
Shortly afterwards, he was joined by state Congress President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, NCP senior ministers Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, besides Shiv Sena’s Minister Eknath Shinde.
Apparently cordial and warm despite sporting masks, leaders of the three alliance parties immediately circulated the pictures of the exclusive birthday get-together with Thackeray, ostensibly to drive out the blues created by Ajit Pawar’s earlier photo.
The day started on a cheerful note for Thackeray who was warmly greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ruling MVA allies and opposition BJP leaders.
“Best wishes to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackerayji on his birthday. I pray for Uddhavji’s long and healthy life”, Modi said, adding that a birthday is a day to reminisce of the past, as well as to chart a course for the future.
“I believe today will give you more strength to achieve the goals of the development of the state and the country,” said the PM.
Thorat, Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, Fadnavis, BKP state chief Chandrakant Patil and others also wished him the best of health and a long life and a healthy year ahead.
In view of the Covid pandemic, Thackeray had announced that he would not celebrate his birthday but suggested his party men should organise medical camps, and blood and plasma donation drives for public benefit, or donate to the CM Relief Fund.
“Since the past four months, we have been combating Corona and have got good results. Please avoid putting up banners, hoardings, etc on my birthday and maintain Covid protocols strictly. All the wishes and blessings I dedicate to the Corona Warriors,” said Thackeray.