So­nia Uni­fier, But Ni­tish Ought to Head Anti-BJP Front: Pawar

NCP chief says govt not se­ri­ous about let­ting Par­lia­ment work, praises Rahul Gandhi’s ef­fort to play na­tional role

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Ro­hini.Singh@ times­group.com

SHARAD PAWAR NCP Pres­i­dent As of to­day in In­dia, if the Op­po­si­tion has to come to­gether & pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive, he (Ni­tish) is the No.1name

New Delhi: A So­nia Gandhi-led Congress would be more ef­fec­tive than a Rahul Gandhi-led party but Bi­har Chief Min­is­ter Ni­tish Ku­mar will be the most cred­i­ble face of an anti-BJP al­liance, said Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, ex­press­ing a sen­ti­ment that op­po­si­tion par­ties haven’t ar­tic­u­lated pre­vi­ously.

In a two-hour con­ver­sa­tion with ET’s se­nior jour­nal­ists, the 75-year-old veteran politi­cian said Ku­mar’s vic­tory in the assem­bly elec­tions last Novem­ber in Bi­har had sent a “sig­nal” to all those un­happy with Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

“As of to­day in In­dia, if the Op­po­si­tion has to come to­gether and pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive, he (Ni­tish Ku­mar) is the num­ber one name,” Pawar said. Congress does not have such a face and Ku­mar, be­cause he is a state chief min­is­ter, has “au­thor­ity”. NCP would be open FULL IN­TER­VIEW to as­so­ci­at­ing it­self with such a non-BJP set-up, Pawar said. While Congress, ac­cord­ing to Pawar, is cru­cial to any anti-BJP al­liance, Ni­tish Ku­mar would be the “ce­ment­ing force”.

He said the Congress pres­i­dent was a uni­fy­ing fig­ure while ac­knowl­edg­ing dif­fer­ences he had with her in the past.

“So­nia Gandhi en­joys more ac­cept­abil­ity in­clud­ing with other op­po­si­tion par­ties. Some of us fought with her and we have seen the change in her. She is very ac­com­moda­tive,” said Pawar.

The Congress vice-pres­i­dent has also evolved and while it’s still too early to give a ver­dict, he’s mak­ing the ef­fort to get to grips with play­ing a na­tional role. It “de­pends on how Rahul per­forms over the next three years. As of to­day, I say Rahul Gandhi is the only leader who is prac­ti­cally vis­it­ing most states”, Pawar said.

He said the gov­ern­ment is “not se­ri­ous” about pur­su­ing the Agus­taWest­land case, which has em­broiled the top Congress lead­er­ship in kick­back al­le­ga­tions. BJP lead­ers have told him in­for­mally that they don’t see much po­lit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion in the is­sue.

“When al­le­ga­tions first sur­faced, (for­mer prime min­is­ter) Man­mo­han Singh im­me­di­ately took the de­ci­sion to can­cel it. What­ever ad­vance was given was also with­drawn. CBI (Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion) in­quiry was formed. There were three-four he­li­copters that had reached In­dia and that was not taken... If sup­pose some mone­tary in­ter­est was in­volved, how will they take all th­ese ac­tions? Who will pay money if the con­tract is can­celled? Those who are rais­ing it are also fully aware of it,” Pawar said.

He said the gov­ern­ment didn’t seem to be se­ri­ous about get­ting Par­lia­ment to func­tion smoothly and was us­ing Subra­ma­nian Swamy to spark un­rest in the Ra­jya Sabha and to “at­tack some­one”.

“Since yes­ter­day and day be­fore yes­ter­day when Subra­ma­nian Swamy got up, the House just col­lapsed. And they (BJP) de­lib­er­ately en­cour­age him to get up and say some­thing. How can the rul­ing party be­have this way? Their job is to see Par­lia­ment func­tion­ing,” Pawar said.

He said Congress should have re­acted much more sharply to the dis­missal of two gov­ern­ments run by it in Arunachal Pradesh and Ut­tarak­hand. This has al­lowed BJP to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion.

“Looks like that the num­ber two (in the Congress party), if he is go­ing to con­trol the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, if that is cor­rect, and this is what we hear from dif­fer­ent quar­ters, in­di­cates this kind of de­layed re­ac­tion,” he said.

Pawar, who cor­rectly pre­dicted vic­tory for the Ni­tish Ku­mar-Lalu Prasad-led Ma­ha­gath­band­han in Bi­har, said Mayawati-led Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party is best poised to form the next gov­ern­ment in the po­lit­i­cally cru­cial state of Ut­tar Pradesh, where elec­tions are due in 2017. When asked to com­pare the rel­a­tive mer­its of Arvind Ke­jri­wal and Ni­tish Ku­mar as lead­ers of an anti-BJP al­liance, he said the Delhi chief min­is­ter can­not play the same role as he doesn’t have the Bi­har CM’s vastly greater depth of experience. “Ni­tish was a mem­ber of the Union Cabi­net. Be­cause of that he got ex­po­sure and experience of many states. He has been the chief min­is­ter for three terms. He is es­sen­tially a po­lit­i­cal worker who came from the low­est rank. No­body knows Ke­jri­wal. We have just heard his name,” said Pawar.

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar AFP

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