Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has claimed the Maratha community would have got the assured reservation had the Nationalist Congress Party not withdrawn its support to the UPA government headed by him ahead of 2014 assembly polls.

Senior NCP leader Sunil Tatkare, now a member of the Ajit Pawar camp, hit back at Chavan and questioned his “intention” behind blaming the party (founded by Sharad Pawar) over the reservation issue.

Without naming Pawar, Tatkare said the decision to withdraw the support of the Chavan-led government was taken after a discussion with the top leader of the party.

“Had the NCP not withdrawn the support to my government ahead of the 2014 assembly elections, we would have contested the elections jointly and come back to power. We could have contested the case challenging our reservation plan in the Bombay High Court and ensured that our decision would be upheld in the court,” Chavan told reporters in Pune.

A decisive position had been taken for the Maratha reservation for the first time in 50 years when I headed the state, he said.

Meanwhile, Chavan said he had to pay a heavy political price for taking strict decisions regarding the cooperative sector and recalled how the board of directors of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank was dissolved (by RBI) when he was the chief minister.

“The cooperative societies in the state are known for the undisciplined work culture. Post-Harshad Mehta scam, I studied the cooperation sector. When I became chief minister in November 2010, I took some strict decisions in the cooperation sector. The Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank was put under an administrator and its board was removed. I paid a very heavy price politically for those decisions,” he said.

In Maharashtra, the cooperative sector is considered as the stronghold of NCP and the MSCB decision was then viewed as a personal setback for Sharad Pawar.

The Nationalist Congress Party withdrew its support to the Congress-led government in September 2014, almost a month before the assembly elections, following which President`s rule was imposed in Maharashtra.

Reacting sharply to Chavan`s claims, Tatkare said, “I was a part of the state Cabinet during 2009-14 when a committee was formed under Narayan Rane. The Maratha reservation was given based on the Rane committee`s report, which the Bombay High Court struck down. I cannot understand the intention of a senior leader like Chavan to blame the NCP.”

He alleged Congress ended up in the fourth position in Maharashtra because of Chavan.

“The decision to withdraw the support of the Chavan-led government was taken by discussing it with the top leader of the party at that time,” Tatkar said.

Another NCP leader, Praful Patel, who also belongs to the Ajit Pawar camp, said Chavan could become MLA because of the support extended by the NCP.

“Why is he still working with the NCP (which is part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi along with Congress) if he has problems with the party? I do not wish to be part of this mud-slinging anymore,” he said.

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