Ex-Shiv Sena Union minister calls Sharad Pawar ‘backstabber’

Former Shiv Sena Union minister and senior leader Anant G. Geete has spewed venom at Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, calling him a ‘backstabber’, creating ripples of anxiety in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra.

While the three allies — Sena-NCP-Congress — attempted to distance themselves from Geete’s remarks, the Opposition BJP sought to exploit them politically to highlight the ‘cracks’ in the MVA.

Geete, 70, said that Pawar, who had ‘backstabbed’ the Congress to form the NCP, cannot be the ‘guru’ for Shiv Sainiks and termed the MVA government as a temporary ‘adjustment’.

“People may praise Pawar, but our only ‘guru’ is (the late) Balasaheb Thackeray,” Geete said at a rally in his erstwhile bastion, Raigad, which was captured by the NCP’s Sunil Tatkare in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

He also accused Pawar of betraying the Congress and launching the NCP, saying that if the two parties cannot join hands, there is no need for the Sena to completely follow the Congress.

Though claiming that he harboured no ill-will towards the MVA and wanted it to work well, Geete also cautioned that after the separation, Shiv Sainiks will stick only to the Sena.

Shiv Sena chief spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut sought to label Geete’s statement as ‘personal opinion’ and not the party’s view.

“I am not aware what he has said. I can only say that Sharad Pawar is a big leader and the main pillar of the MVA government,” Raut said.

State Congress President Nana Patole said that while it is an internal matter between the Sena and the NCP, Geete’s remarks were unfortunate though they would not affect the MVA government.

Tatkare, who was lauded as a ‘giant-killer’ for trouncing the Sena’s former Union minister in Raigad, said that Geete’s outburst should not be taken too seriously as he seems to have made it out of frustration.

“Geete should understand how coalition governments work. He was part of a coalition as an MoS for Finance, then handled power and industry ministries at the Centre for nearly eight years,” said Tatkare, whose daughter Aditi Tatkare is a MoS in the MVA government.

Reacting to the developments, BJP’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis backed Geete and reiterated that the “MVA is an unnatural alliance which will not last for long”.

As per political sources, six-term MP Geete maybe spooked at the erosion of his support base on his home-ground with the NCP trouncing him in 2019, and reports of the Sena-NCP planning an alliance for the upcoming local body elections could prove more detrimental.