New Delhi: Sharad Pawar, chief of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has proposed that Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), HD Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister and Pawar himself are the senior leaders with “no ambition to become Prime Minister”.
They would come together to unite the Opposition, by travelling throughout the country, to give confidence to the people, and provide a counter-narrative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Pawar has opened the doors of the NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the first time, and said that while he had not discussed the issue with BSP chief Mayawati, he would be ‘happy’ since this association will pay dividends.
Pawar, in an interview with Hindustan Times, compared the current political situation to 1975-77; argued that disillusionment has set in against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like it had against Indira Gandhi; and suggested that the Opposition focus should be on state-wide alliances instead of a national alliance. He called for the leadership question to be left for after the elections, and said that he has over recent conversations felt that Rahul Gandhi has “substantially improved”.
Comparing the current political climate and the situation in 1975-77, when he was a minister in the Maharashtra government, Pawar said that like Indira Gandhi, Modi too had “control of media, government and government agencies”.
He said that at that time as well people pointed out to the lack of an alternative platform, organisation and leader to pose an actual challenge.
“The difference is there was one leader – Jayaprakash Narayan. Political leaders and people were willing to accept his advice. And ultimately on his advice, most leaders forgot their parties,” HT qouted him as saying. Pawar said that it was eventually after the election that the Janata Party came together and Morarji Desai was elected the leader.
He added, “I honestly feel that there are some leaders, like Sonia Gandhi, (HD) Deve Gowda and, while I should not say it, myself also…we have no ambition to become Prime Minister. At least I am speaking for myself. But I have ambition to bring all these forces together and provide a viable alternative. For that, some of us – the names I have mentioned – can travel throughout India and give confidence to the people of India because today, there is no JP (Jayaprakash Narayan).”
“Is it possible at the state level? I am in close dialogue with various state leaders and my own assessment is yes,” said the NCP chief.
Pawar then laid out the architecture of the state-wide alliances, which would have to rest on other parties conceding space to Congress where it was the dominant force and Congress recognising its era of total dominance was over and giving space to regional parties in other places. In Kerala, West Bengal and Delhi, he spoke of the Left, Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party respectively as the number one forces around which the Opposition should rally.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had broadly agreed with him, claimed Pawar, praising Gandhi’s approach of not projecting any leader before elections as the “correct, sensible approach”.
“He (Rahul) said there are some states where it is difficult for my colleagues to accept or digest this situation, particularly Kerala and West Bengal. In Kerala, they feel our fight with the Left is equal. In West Bengal, the position is not like Kerala, but the overall thinking of the leadership of the Congress party about Mamata is such that it is difficult for them to accept her. He told me that it is difficult in these two-three states. I told him you are the leader, and it is your job to convince,” Pawar was quoted as saying.
Comparing Sonia and Rahul, the NCP chief said that even though he had fought with Sonia Gandhi, they shared an excellent equation, she tried to understand issues and gave respect to other leaders. “Rahul is also showing it. There is a definite improvement.”
Having met Mayawati recently, Pawar said, “She has consolidated the position in UP with Samajwadi Party and others. But she expects other parties to take a rational approach in other states. She is totally for a change and she is ready to work hard.”