Pawar play makes match ex­cit­ing, un­pre­dictable

Mid Day - - City - RAAG DARBARI Dhar­men­dra Jore Dhar­men­dra Jore is po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor, mid-day. He tweets @dhar­men­dra­jore Send your feed­back to [email protected]

SHARAD Pawar is one of the few lead­ers who has kept him­self rel­e­vant in na­tional pol­i­tics, notwith­stand­ing his party’s strength (or lack of it) in the Par­lia­ment or in the state assem­blies. The Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party boss’s at­tempts at the PM’s post have failed in the past, yet his sup­port­ers have kept hope afloat, say­ing, “Sabeb ka time ayega’. It is an­other mat­ter that Pawar laughs aloud when­ever he is asked the ques­tion. He has said re­peat­edly that he wouldn’t make it to the prime po­si­tion with the num­bers his Congress break­away gets from Ma­ha­rash­tra.

Any­thing he says or re­fuses to say make head­lines. No­body can guar­an­tee the out­come of his pub­lic state­ments. The un­pre­dictabil­ity that his po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vrings bring to him has im­pacted his cred­i­bil­ity at times, and yet has made him friends across par­ties. Wouldn’t it be the ic­ing on the cake if the NCP man­ages to win good strength, mak­ing Pawar an im­por­tant ne­go­tia­tor in the post-elec­tion man­age­ment of ma­ha­gath­band­han? That way, he could safe­guard NCP’s in­ter­ests and stake in the for­ma­tion of the govern­ment, if any. Maybe things are mov­ing in that di­rec­tion al­ready.

Pawar be­came a prime time talk last week when he said he was mulling a re­turn to the Lok Sabha elec­toral arena from Madha, the place he had won in 2009 af­ter de­lim­i­ta­tion of con­stituen­cies. In 2012, the then agri­cul­ture min­is­ter in the UPA-2, de­clared that he would not con­test Lok Sabha polls to make way for young lead­er­ship. Daugh­ter Supriya Sule, who first had a stint in the Ra­jya Sabha, has been hold­ing up the fam­ily fief­dom of Bara­mati since 2009.

Multi-pur­pose move

One rea­son be­hind Pawar, 78, con­sid­er­ing a come­back to the lower house is the op­po­si­tion within the party to re­plac­ing the in­cum­bent MP Vi­jaysinh Mo­hite Patil, who is one of the found­ing mem­bers of NCP. For­mer bu­reau­crat Prab­hakar Desh­mukh had im­pressed upon Pawar that he be Mo­hite-Patil’s re­place­ment here, but the MP played smart and de­manded that Pawar con­test the elec­tions from Madha. Mo­hite-Patil could al­ways get com­pen­sated for his ‘sac­ri­fice’ though an As­sem­bly seg­ment from where he won sev­eral elec­tions was re­served. Three gen­er­a­tions of Mo­hite-Patil have en­joyed power.

Pawar may not have agreed in­stantly, but the de­mand has gained trac­tion from all over be­cause the boss him­self tak­ing on the rul­ing party in a di­rect elec­tion would mean en­cour­age­ment for other con­tes­tants, se­nior party lead­ers in par­tic­u­lar. Some se­niors are not will­ing to take up the Lok Sabha field. Party lead­er­ship ex­pects to con­vince them in view of Pawar’s in­di­ca­tion.

Pawar for­mula

Pawar’s pre­dic­tion for 2019 has no place for the Modi govern­ment’s re­turn. He says the non-BJP par­ties would gain more than the BJP (he re­fuses to pre­dict the num­bers though). He sees all op­po­si­tion par­ties com­ing to­gether af­ter the Lok Sabha re­sults to de­throne the BJP.

He says he does not see any pos­si­bil­ity of a na­tional ma­ha­gath­band­han, but would like all in the op­po­si­tion to gather un­der the re­gional par­ties that are stronger in their re­spec­tive states (NCP thinks of it­self as one in Ma­ha­rash­tra). The seat-shar­ing should be done in re­spect of en­sur­ing wins and not split­ting votes. He says the op­po­si­tion’s joint ral­lies would he held in ten cities up north and down south. The for­ma­tion will be like Ma­mata Ban­er­jee’s event in Kolkata that was at­tended by 22 non-BJP par­ties.

'Come on, all the best'

The BJP has been ac­cused of be­ing friendly with Pawar who had de­clared un­con­di­tional sup­port to the BJP’s mi­nor­ity govern­ment in Ma­ha­rash­tra even be­fore all re­sults were in. A pub­lic dis­play of af­fec­tion by Modi and Pawar had taken their re­spec­tive sup­port­ers by sur­prise but the lead­ers who know the two weren’t amused. Now elec­toral pol­i­tics de­mand that the bon­homie be for­got­ten and at­tacks launched against each other.

Fol­low­ing Pawar’s state­ment, BJP lead­ers have vowed to de­feat him and Supriya. “It won’t be vic­tory if we win less than 45 seats. Let’s take a pledge that these 45 seats will in­clude Bara­mati,” BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah told party work­ers in Pune on Satur­day. Rev­enue Min­is­ter Chan­drakant Patil has cau­tioned Pawar against con­test­ing from Madha on health grounds and age. “If he is there and we get to con­test Madha in seat-shar­ing with Sena, Pawar’s de­feat is cer­tain,” said Patil.

Un­daunted as ever, Pawar has wished the BJP the best in Bara­mati and else­where, re­mind­ing the lead­ers that they shouldn’t worry much about his health, and gave it back to BJP in a mis­chievous way by ex­press­ing a con­cern for Nitin Gad­kari whose name is be­ing pro­jected as Modi’s re­place­ment. “Gad­kari’s name is be­ing dis­cussed for the PM’s post. I’m happy be­cause Gad­kari is my friend, but at the same time, I worry about him,” he said. Dou­ble-edged? You may in­ter­pret Mr Pawar any way you want.

Sharad Pawar says he does not see any pos­si­bil­ity of a na­tional ma­ha­gath­band­han, but would like all in the op­po­si­tion to gather un­der the re­gional par­ties that are stronger in their re­spec­tive states

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