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Even as the touch-and-go between the BJP and the Shiv Sena continues, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, which has extended “outside, unconditional support” to the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, has claimed that while it will continue to prop up the BJP’s minority government, it won’t go soft on public issues. “After its victory, the BJP is groaning under a burden of expectations on contentious issues like scrapping local body tax and toll, including the dhangar community in the scheduled tribe (ST) category, doing away with load shedding and improving the finances of the state government, which already has a Rs 3.04 lakh crore debt burden… we will continue to support them in the interests of having a stable government, but will turn up the aggression in the legislature and outside on these issues,” a senior NCP leader told dna. “We want to emerge as a viable alternative,” the NCP leader said, adding that while the Sena, which was the second-largest party in the state legislative assembly and the principal opposition seemed to be in a state of drift, the Congress too was at a low ebb. The NCP plans to stake claim to the leader of the opposition’s post in the state legislative council and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar will tour drought-hit Marathwada this week. Incidentally, Ajit, who is Sharad Pawar’s nephew, had found himself in the heat of a controversy over his comments mocking a farmer who was sitting on a hunger strike demanding the release of water from the Ujani dam. “There is this person from Solapur, sitting on hunger strike for 64 days demanding water be released from the dam. But where are we going to get water from? Should we urinate? And when we don’t have water to drink, it’s hard to pass urine as well,” Pawar had then said. On Sunday, Pawar senior also spoke to MLAs, candidates and office bearers from Marathwada, North Maharashtra, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg to review the party’s poll performance – NCP slipped to the fourth position with 41 seats, one less than the Congress. Despite the anti-NCP nature of the mandate, the survival of the Fadnavis government almost hinges on the NCP, which had been described by prime minister Narendra Modi as a “Naturally Corrupt Party,” during the campaign. However, BJP leaders admit that the NCP’s support may not be pro bono but with strings attached—watering down of alleged graft cases against senior NCP leaders. The NCP leader said the NCP would support the BJP through “deft floor management” in the house. “We will not trigger the fall of the government. We do not want the BJP to emerge as a martyr,” he claimed, adding that in case the BJP found the going tough, it could dissolve the house and seek a fresh mandate.
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