NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday said all opposition parties should come together to take on the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha polls and offered to play the role of a unifier, as he sensed the 1977-like situation when Indira Gandhi was voted out of power by a coalition of parties.
Most of the “bypoll results went against the ruling party (BJP). This is not a small thing,” he said after meeting the newly-elected Lok Sabha member from Bhandara-Gondiya Madhukar Kukade, who belongs to his party.
“There have been some occasions earlier where bypoll defeats have culminated into the defeat of the government of the time,” the veteran former union minister told reporters here.
The NCP chief, who was earlier in the Congress, recalled that in 1977 too, the opposition unity had resulted in the defeat of the then Congress government led by Indira Gandhi and said a similar situation was prevailing now.
“The anti-BJP parties who believe in democracy and having a common minimum programme (CMP) should keep in mind the wishes of the people and come together. I would be happy to be part of the process to unite all like-minded parties,” said the 77-year-old leader.
He said non-NDA national and regional parties that have a strong base in their respective regions should arrive at an understanding to come together.
In this context, Pawar said parties which have strong presence in states, like the Left in Kerala, the JD(S) (Karnataka), the Congress (Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra), the TDP (Andhra Pradesh), the TRS (Telangana), the TMC (West Bengal) and the NCP in Maharashtra need to build a consensus.
Dealing a blow to the BJP, opposition parties last week emerged victorious in 11 out of the 14 Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls, while limiting the saffron party and its allies to just three.
In Maharashtra’s Palghar Lok Sabha by-election, which was won by the BJP, the anti-BJP votes were more than the ballots polled by it, Pawar claimed.
To a question on Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s remarks about winning the bypolls “at any cost and using any means”, Pawar said the CM’s instructions were implemented.
“I have seen many elections, but never seen so much misuse of power. The district administration (referring to Bhandara-Gondiya bypoll in Maharashtra) orders that banks be kept open on Saturday and Sunday so that beneficiaries can get money in their accounts on the eve of voting,” he said.
Abhimanyu Kale, the district collector of Gondiya, was shunted out a day after the Lok Sabha by-election there was marred by large-scale complaints of malfunctioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Kale was the returning officer for the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha constituency where complaints of malfunctioning of EVMs were received from more than 40 polling stations.
“The Election Commission said the district collector concerned will not be no poll duty for eight to 10 years,” Pawar said, adding “The state and central governments should not keep such government officials in service and take strict action against such officials.”
On the farmers’ strike, he said all sections of society should support cultivators who have been forced to protest because of the “government’s apathy”.
“It is not a political agitation. I appeal to the agitating farmers to avoid throwing milk on roads. They should not destroy the crops they have grown, instead distribute it to the poor people,” Pawar said.