Next year is a crucial year for Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, as it may well provide him with the last and best opportunity to fulfil his ultimate political ambition of becoming Prime Minister. But The NCP leader is well aware of his limitations as well as those of his party. He knows that he cannot achieve his ambition without the support of other parties. On one hand, there are efforts being made to form a grand alliance of all opposition parties against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On the other hand, the Trinmool Congress is trying to form a non-BJP, non-Congress Third Front. True to his reputation, Mr Pawar is warming up to both camps.
All opposition parties are eager to join hands and counter the BJP’s growing influence. But not one of them can take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP party on their own. This situation provides a perfect opportunity for even smaller party leaders to stake their claim to the coveted Prime Minister’s Office. According to sources, Mr Pawar was probably the first one to envisage such an opportunity. While calling leaders of parties, sans Congress and BJP, on the national front, he is also trying to form a grand alliance with the Congress and smaller parties in his home state. In fact, Mr Pawar had been asking the Congress leadership to take a lead in forming an alliance of like-minded parties nationwide for the last six months. As Congress did not reciprocate, Mr Pawar took the lead and called all the secular parties in Mumbai on January 26 for a ‘Save the Constitution’ rally.
The rally revealed the willingness of parties to come together and join hands to stop PM Modi’s BJP government in the 2019 polls. This move has set the ball rolling. According to observers, Mr Pawar is likely to adopt a two-pronged strategy, as always. In the 2009 general elections, he was a part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance for Maharashtra. But on the phone, he addressed a joint rally with the Communist Party of India’s leadership in Odisha, which was then against the UPA.
This time around, Mr Pawar knows that Trinmool Congress leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is also trying to build a non-Congress, non-BJP front and parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, and even the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) could join hands to form a Third Front. In such a situation, Mr Pawar will try to balance his position in camps, the Congress-led front as well as the Third Front. “It is inevitable for Mr Pawar. He can’t surrender his entire politics to Congress. But at the same time, it is not possible for his party to get good numbers without the Congress. In such a situation, he will try to keep his politics anti-BJP. And wherever the Congress recognises his power, he will be with them. But wherever the Congress does not give him space, he will stand with the Third Front, formed. The endeavour is to ensure that in the post poll scenario, he can be in a position to be the ‘consensus’ candidate for the top post by the anti-BJP camp. “But this is long shot. And Mr Pawar knows it very well,” said Anant Dikshit, a senior journalist who has followed ‘Pawar Politics’ for almost 35 years.
On March 28th, Mr Pawar has called a meeting of opposition parties in Delhi. Ms Banerjee is likely to attend. In this week, Mr Pawar attended the dinner called by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and also met Congress president Rahul Gandhi the following day. “Both leaders discussed the current political situation. It has been decided that there would be no single leader of this alliance and leadership will be decided post elections,” said NCP MP Majid Menon on the Gandhi-Pawar meeting.
The state Congress chief, Ashok Chavan said that the Congress is positive about forming an alliance in the state, but is waiting for directions from its national leadership. “We have held talks twice in Mumbai. We have also briefed our national leadership about the NCP’s proposal. Once the decision comes from the Delhi, we will start working on details,” he said. Mr Pawar has been hankering for the PM’s post for the last 27 years. But at the same time, he is also keen to get back into power in Maharashtra at any cost. For Maharashtra, he needs the Congress. For the national scenario, he also needs the regional parties to have the final say in electing a leader in the post-poll scenario. The ‘power politics’ in play this time is all about balance.
The NCP chief is aware that the emerging political situation in the country ahead of the 2019 general election is the best time for him to bid for his long wished position in the country. Being a ‘grounded’ politician, he also knows the reality of his party’s position in Maharashtra. That is the reason why he is calling leaders of parties besides the Congress and BJP on the national front, while at the same time, he is also trying to form a grand alliance with the Congress and smaller parties in his home state....