Art 370 won't have bearing on Maha polls: Pawar

 NCP chief Sharad Pawar. PTI Photo

People are in the mood for a change in Maharashtra and the scrapping of Article 370, raised aggressively by the BJP, does not seem to be resonating with people at the grass-root level in the state, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has claimed.

In an interview to PTI, Pawar accused the NDA government of misusing power to bedevil political opponents, after the Enforcement Directorate named him and summoned senior NCP leader Praful Patel in separate money laundering cases.

With the state elections around, he also impugned the timing of the move.

The NCP patriarch said his party will strive to ensure the leaders who crossed over to the ruling BJP or Shiv Sena taste defeat in the October 21 Assembly polls.

"The people are in the mood for a change in Maharashtra," he said.

The BJP benefited in the Lok Sabha elections, held earlier this year, from the sentiment that developed among people after the Pulwama terror attack (in February), the former defence minister said, noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi also largely campaigned on the issue.

"People normally consolidate when there is a national calamity. We had seen it during the India-Pakistan war (that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971)," he said.

"So, naturally people made a one-sided decision (post-Pulwama) and Modi got more than 300 seats. But, this one is a state (Assembly) election," the 79-year-old leader said.

He said people vote differently in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, citing examples of what happened in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in a short span (last year).

He said people of the three states favoured Modi in the Lok Sabha polls, but voted against the BJP in the Assembly elections held there a few months earlier.

"I see such a change happening (the BJP losing) in Maharashtra (Assembly polls)," Pawar said, exuding confidence.

He said despite top BJP leaders raising the issue of abrogation of Article 370 in the Maharashtra poll campaign, he could not see it resonating with the common people at the grass-root level.

The Article, which was scrapped in August this year, earlier gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

"Since Article 370 has been removed, one can go and buy land in Kashmir which was not possible earlier. When I ask people will they go to Kashmir and do farming, none says yes. So, it is not that scrapping of Article 370 will have a bearing on the state Assembly polls, Pawar said.

The veteran leader, however, categorically said that the NCP has no complaint about the abrogation of Article 370 and is also not opposed to it.

On the switching over of some former ministers and MLAs from the NCP to ruling parties, Pawar said it has given his party an opportunity to field young faces in the polls.

The NCP will strive to defeat the defectors, he said.

Pawar recalled that MLAs quit the Congress(S), led by him enmasse to join the Congress in 1980, but majority of the defectors had to face defeat in the subsequent Assembly polls.

"The biggest benefit of what has happened in Maharashtra is I can bring in the new leadership. The young generation is getting attracted towards us in a big way," Pawar claimed. Pawar also questioned the timing of the ED naming him in a money laundering case in connection with the alleged Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam, and summoning Patel in another case.

"You summon me or Patel, what effect will it have? They have filed the cases at a time when elections are around. They wanted to give a message, wanted to demoralise us all. None ever took such steps during the election period in the past," Pawar added.

With leaders of the ruling parties claiming that the BJP-led NDA will clinch 220 or more seats in the Assembly polls, Pawar quipped they were getting the figures "wrong somewhere.

"I think they should say they will win all the 288 seats," he said sarcastically. 

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