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Hit by Modi bouncer, NCP says Pawar clean bowls his opponents

Mumbai | A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the party Tuesday attributed the criticism to the former’s “fear” that its president was uniting other parties to dislodge the BJP from power at the Centre.

Countering Modi over his “hit wicket” jibe aimed at Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said its president was “not the one who gets out hitting wickets, but the one who claims wicket of opponents clean bowled”.

NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik claimed the BJP and Shiv Sena will draw a blank in the first phase polling in Vidarbha thanks to the “poor response” they are receiving to their campaign rallies in the region in eastern Maharashtra.

He said even Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Hansraj Ahir and Subhash Bhamre will lose from their respective constituencies of Nagpur, Chandrapur and Dhule.

The first phase polling will be held across seven Lok Sabha seats in Vidarbha on April 11.

Modi had Monday claimed Pawar, “who once felt he could become prime minister, shied away” from contesting general election after declaring to take poll plunge as he sensed the “wind was blowing in unfavourable” direction.

Modi, at a poll rally in Wardha, had also said the former Union Agriculture Minister’s grip on the NCP was loosening and that a “feud” had hit the Pawar family with the veteran leaders nephew, Ajit Pawar, allegedly trying to take control of the 20-year-old party.

The PM had also said Ajit Pawar has impelled his uncle to “hit wicket”.

“He (Modi) criticised (Sharad) Pawar saheb. He said Pawar saheb got out hitting wickets at the hands of his nephew…Our leader is not the one who gets out hitting wickets or gets run out, but the one who claims wicket (of opponents) clean bowled,” Malik told reporters here.

He was speaking at a joint briefing of the Congress and the NCP.

Malik said Sharad Pawar has the responsibility to bring all the like-minded parties together against the BJP-led NDA.

He claimed the BJP was not going to get even 150 Lok Sabha seats in the April-May elections, while the NDA would not cross the 200-mark.

“Pawar Saheb has the responsibility to bring other parties together to form the alternate government. Modi ji targeted Pawar Saheb out of this very fear,” Malik said.

Malik taunted Modi, saying the prime minister was still blaming the previous governments on several issues, which showed the latter has started delivering speeches like an opposition leader.

Among others, Malik targeted Maharashtra minister and BJP leader Chandrakant Patil over his reported remark that NCP leaders like Ajit Pawar were being probed (for alleged graft) and that the BJP-led government would take necessary action if need be.

“Act if you have the guts. We will show how some Maharashtra ministers and other leaders of the BJP go to jail after the party loses power at the Centre and in Maharashtra (where assembly polls are due in second half of 2019). Patil should stop using such gimmicks,” Malik said.

Reiterating the NCP’s allegation that the wife of the party’s candidate from Beed, Bajrang Sonawane, was attacked by “BJP goons”, Malik demanded deployment of central security forces in the constituency in place of local police.

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