The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) working committee re-elected Sharad Pawar as the party president for the next four years. All dialogues and political commentary these days are focused on the 2024 national elections. The talk is about Narendra Modi, Sharad Pawar, Yogi Adityanath, Prashant Kishor and Mamata Banerjee’s coalition calculators. But forget 2024, the real year to focus on is 2025.
Pawar is playing his card very calculative since MVA government collapsed in Maharashtra. In his speech, Pawar attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the remission granted to 11 convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and the killings of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Pawar referred to how Modi had spoken about gender equality and respect for women in his Independence Day speech.
30 months ago, NCP chief Sharad Pawar was the toast of Maharashtra and nation’s non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politics. His effort, at resuscitating his own party and then stitching an unlikely coalition with the Shiv Sena and ally Congress, to keep the BJP out of power was hailed. A new template for the country’s opposition was discovered. So was a new, old leader who could stitch a similar combination and succeed where others had failed—in taking on the BJP.
He pointed to how leaders across the political spectrum like chief ministers and regional satraps like Nitish Kumar (Bihar), K Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav consulted Pawar. In a series of tweets, the veteran politician from Maharashtra juxtaposed the convicts’ release with the Prime Minister’s August 15 speech. He had pointed this out while speaking to reporters in Thane last month.
Addressing the extended working committee of the NCP in Delhi, Pawar alleged that the Modi government was “anti-farmer” and had also “failed” to tackle the issue of unemployment. The veteran leader said that farmers were looking forward to getting a good price for their paddy crop, but the government has imposed a 20 per cent export duty on rice and banned the export of broken rice.
A draft political resolution moved during the meeting called for the unity of like-minded parties to fight against the BJP and its allies. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar met NCP president Sharad Pawar to evolve a consensus among non-BJP parties to forge a political front keeping the 2024 elections in sight. Though the efforts are still in the preliminary stage, the message that came across is that Pawar is playing the role of a catalyst to bring individuals across parties and states to the talking table.
Last week, Sharad Pawar had announced in Maharashtra that he would work to unite non-BJP parties, but he also made it very clear that he would not take any responsibility due to his age. Pawar’s refrain was that the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, failed to usher in the promised “achhe din” in the country. Most of the promises made in 2014 have remained on paper, he lamented. Sharad Pawar sees no benefit in forming government with Shiv Sena as one day it will fall because MLAs of Shiv Sena will find it hard to work with NCP/Congress guys.
Sharad Pawar has friends in all parties and being in opposition doesn’t make any difference for him and Shiv Sena today is run by buffoons like Sanjay Raut who have no knowledge about winning elections. He knows people will get angry if he supports Sena as they have mandated him to sit in opposition. He is a shrewd politician and why would he support a sinking party like Sena which won on Modi wave. He is just watching the show and will let BJP form the govt and will ask his Mlas to abstain during the time of trust vote in the Assembly. He wants smooth relations with Modi so that ED/CBI don’t land at his doors.
Shiv Sena cannot help his party if something happens to Ajit Pawar or any of his party leaders so it’s better for him to stay away from Shiv Sena. NCP is a rural party and its vote bank is intact so by making a government with Sena won’t help him much which is the Mumbai/Konkan party. He knows the repercussions of supporting a lame duck govt like in Karnataka where HDK had to resign due to infighting among MLAs for Minister posts.
He has been in politics for over 50 years and knows pros and cons better than anyone else. Congress will never support Shiv Sena as it would be the biggest Loser nationally. Shiv Sena runs on emotions and doesn’t have any roadmap for economic growth or jobs. All they know is hitting the streets for any issue as they have completely failed in running BMC for decades.
Sharad Pawar is the past master of realpolitik. He has survived catastrophic challenges and has prospered. People say that he is the richest politician in the country and has real estate assets of untold value. In the recent past, he could persuade Uddhav Thackeray to ditch the BJP, the permanent long term ideological partner having a pre-poll alliance to form a government with his party and the Congress. He was not only the architect of the MVA coalition but also its remote control. Uddhav was the front, Pawar was the shadow behind. The going was good and it was not his objective to sabotage this arrangement. But the indirect fall out of this unholy arrangement is erosion of Hindutva ideology of Shiv Sena, that ideology being its identity.