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
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 Whatever advance was given was also withdrawn.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