Never been to jail, says Sharad Pawar in rebuke to Amit Shah
In a veiled jibe at Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said those who had “cooled their heels” in prison had no right to question what he (Mr. Pawar) had done for Maharashtra.Hitting out at those who have deserted the party ahead of the Assembly elections, the NCP chief said they would soon be relegated to history, and expressed confidence that the political picture would look very different after the polls.“One of the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party [Mr. Shah] who came here [to Solapur] demanded to know my contribution towards Maharashtra… Those who have cooled their heels in prison dare not question what I have done for the State,” NCP chief said, adding, “While I may have done many things, I have never been to jail.”Mr. Pawar was addressing a large gathering in Solapur district at the start of the first phase of his State-wide tour to rally the party rank-and-file ahead of the elections. The exodus of several NCP leaders has compelled the 79-year-old party chief to hit the campaign trail. Mr. Shah had attacked Mr. Pawar and the Congress in his Solapur address during the BJP’s Mahajanadesh Yatra. The NCP chief, in his response on Tuesday, was referring to Mr. Shah’s brief period behind bars in 2010 following his arrest by the CBI in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case. Mr. Pawar also attacked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other ministers of the ruling coalition for conducting aerial surveys of flood-hit areas. He recalled that as Chief Minister during the devastating 1993 Latur earthquake, he was personally overseeing operations from the epicentre in Killari. “In contrast, the current ministers only conducted surveys on helicopter at the time of the Sangli and Kolhapur floods and disappeared from the spot in half an hour,” he said.Taking potshots at former NCP stalwarts like Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil and Dilip Sopal who switched alliances to enter the BJP, Mr. Pawar, without naming them, said the people would put such leaders in their place in the elections.“Do not worry about those who have left … this is only the first phase in this fight. The people in this self-respecting district will put such weaklings [NCP turncoats] in their place … Henceforth, speak of those young leaders who are about to take the party to victory,” the NCP chief told his supporters, remarking that while he might be nudging 80, he was not old and had yet to defeat many political opponents.