NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday lauded Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, her son and party president Rahul Gandhi, saying people should feel "proud of them" as they continue to serve the poor despite the assassination of late prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Pawar also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accusing the Gandhi family of ruining the country and charged him with doing nothing "when innocents were being killed in Gujarat" during his tenure as chief minister of that state.
The former Union minister did not mention any specific incident in his speech, but he was apparently referring to the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Launching a broadside at the ruling BJP, Pawar alleged the saffron outfit was pitting communities against each other as it did nothing on the development front as was promised to the people.
The NCP leader was speaking at an event in Satara district, around 300km from Mumbai.
He said some lawyers have raised doubts if the 16 per cent quota granted to Marathas in jobs and education in Maharashtra will stand scrutiny of the law and said the government should ensure the reservation sustains.
Attacking Modi for targeting the Gandhis, the Maratha strongman said the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru spent years in jail during the British rule, while Indira Gandhi protected interests of the poor when in power.
"Such sacrifice by a family. Indira Gandhi was killed. Rajiv Gandhi was killed. We should feel proud if Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi are continuing to serve the poor notwithstanding these two killings.
"But the prime minister only talks about one family ruining (the country)," the former Maharashtra chief minister told the gathering.
"You (Modi) were in power in Gujarat. Innocents were killed there. What you did there? People were burnt but (you) did nothing," added Pawar, who quit the Congress and formed the NCP in June 1999.
He also raised questions over the recent acquittal of 22 accused, most of them policemen, in the alleged fake encounter killings of gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife and an aide in Gujarat in 2005-06.
"What kind of state it is? Is it a state of the law? Is it a state that protects interest of the common people? The power is in the hands of such people," he said.
On the issue of Maratha reservation, Pawar said some lawyers have told him that they had doubts whether the quota law would stand legally.
"I am not a lawyer. I spoke to some lawyers I will definitely speak to experts after going back to Mumbai and try to understand it (the issue)," he added.
On senior Congress leader D Y Patil joining the NCP, Pawar said the former had evinced interest in working with him.
"Patil has been expressing interest in working with me for the past six months. He said he did not want any post and joined (the NCP)," the 78-year-old veteran parliamentarian added.