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Mahagathbandhan – Pawar eyeing convenor’s role

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who took part in the efforts to form an anti-BJP Mahagathbandhan for quite some time to protect anti-BJP votes from getting divided, now has shifted from his stand calling it impractical and pointing figures at the regional compulsions of the political parties. However, Pawar didn’t fail to express his expectation of the non-BJP parties coming together after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“There is a lot of speculation in the media, a lot of write-ups about some alternative, some front like a ‘Mahagathbandhan.’ I don’t see any possibility of a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or anything. There are certain of our friends. They want that. But that is not practical,” Pawar said. “But after the election, there is every possibility that all these leaders will come together because the total thrust of the election (will be) against the BJP,” he added.

After setbacks in the Karnataka Assembly polls, its knock-back in UP’s Phulpur, Gorakhpur, Kairana and downswing of votes in Gujarat, the possibility of Mahagathbandhan appears to be a tough nut to crack for BJP to retain power at the Centre and also in Maharashtra Assembly polls, 2019. Political experts believed that the accumulation of opposition parties share of votes could’ve acted as a big challenge for the ruling party and would’ve been enough to put them under pressure before the polls.

BJP Spokesperson Avadhut Wagh stated, “Sharad Pawar has always been a part of the third front. We don’t know whom he is supporting now! At present, politics is all about development; any front against Modi will not be successful. In the upcoming elections, BJP will win both in Maharashtra and at the Centre.”

With fading indication of a pre-poll grand alliance, experts see BJP in an advantageous position without any strong opponents. Despite experiencing how opposition alliance ousted or weakened BJP in the last couple of elections, what caused NCP supremo to take a step back? Regardless of being ‘confident’ of state opposition leaders ‘coming together after 2019 poll’, does he want to keep all the options open for NCP and adapt a wait and watch policy!

The NCP chief also recalled the opposition unity in 1977 that had resulted in the defeat of the then Indira Gandhi-led Congress government and anticipated a similar situation prevailing now.

Parties like the Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Telugu Desam Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Biju Janta Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, NCP and other smaller parties are attempting to compose an anti-BJP group. Can so many unlike minds of the Opposition think alike? This argument is yet to find its answer. Will Indian National Congress be generous enough to support a non-Congress candidate for the prime ministerial post? Political experts estimate all these might have influenced Pawar to take the decision against pre-poll Mahagathbandhan and give it a shot post-election as per the performance charts of the political parties.

Congress Spokesperson and Maharashtra Congress VP Dr Ratnakar Mahajan expressed, “We should not focus on Pawar’s statement at this moment. Parties which are ideologically against BJP and believe in secularism are welcome to form an alliance with Congress. Without the Congress, third front is not possible and the final decision by all the parties will be taken exactly before the general election,” he added.

The call for the grand alliance has been well discussed, and the differences between Congress and the regional parties over the shape of the Mahagathbandhan have opened up the possibility of more than one anti-BJP grouping in 2019, as all these parties failed to come with the same strategy to form an alliance to defeat BJP next year. While four Chief Ministers and potential anti-BJP alliance faces — Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, HD Kumaraswamy and Pinarayi Vijayan supported Delhi CM Kejriwal in his conflict with Lt. Governor, Congress called it an ‘excuse not to work’ and maintained their enmity with AAP holding them responsible for the UPA defeat in 2014.

Shiv Sena MLC Anil Parab said, “Grand alliance against BJP is doubtful as Sharad Pawar has changed his statements frequently. His stand is not clear yet. We can see ‘invisible’ hands in the Assembly to help BJP and that is none other than NCP. Sena is very clear already will contest elections single-handedly.”

Taking a dig at Pawar, Shiv Sena suggested opposition parties to be cautious of NCP supremo. In their party mouthpiece, they said, “The Opposition parties meet regularly in Delhi and [all leaders] raise their hands and pose for pictures to show their unity; Sharad Pawar is also one of them. While posing with other leaders, he is now saying that a Third Front is not possible. If Pawar continues to make such statements, the opposition parties need to be cautious.”

NCP leader Vidya Chavan said, “We are taking initiative to bring all parties together but there are some practical barriers for Mahagathbandhan. We expect that left and other parties should come together along with Congress and NCP. Shiv Sena is a double standard party and their allegations on Pawar are baseless. Unlike Sena, NCP is not opportunistic.”

It’s noteworthy to mention, Pawar had invited the Shiv Sena to join the Mahagathbandhan last month; however, the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, on party’s 52nd Foundation Day, rejected the offer.


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