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Sharad Pawar’s final play to fulfil his dream of becoming the nation’s PM

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The tug of war for the mentorship of opposition unity has begun between the two ailing leaders: Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi.

Will the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar succeed in his new initiative to unite the opposition and emerge as the face of the secular and regional parties, or will the Congress party sabotage it?

It may be too early to predict how Pawar’s plan to bring all the anti-BJP parties on one platform ahead of 2019 polls will progress. It is a long way before a formidable and united opposition force is forged. But he appears to be banking on the fact that the new Congress president Rahul Gandhi is not ready to lead a national secular alliance.

However, the Congress is wary too. It wants to avert Pawar’s plan by bringing Sonia Gandhi to the forefront again as the UPA chief.

Pawar has begun well in his home state Maharashtra. On Republic Day, he led the ‘Save Constitution’ march to the Gateway of India. Several opposition parties including the Congress, CPI, CPI-M, National conference, the Sharad Yadav faction of the JD(U), BJP’s former ally Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Congress allies from Gujarat, like Hardik Patel, participated.

Interestingly, this is the first time Pawar has taken up such an exercise. He has been personally making phone calls to other opposition leaders. Prior to this, on his birthday on 12 December, Pawar led a massive Jan Akrosh Halla Bol procession of opposition parties against the Fadnavis government.

Being a shrewd politician for over five decades, Pawar is not one who does things without a clear goal in mind. His confidante and Rajya Sabha MP Praful Patel claims that right now “whether it is the state or the centre, the signal has to go to the people that we are uniting against the BJP.”

Pawar’s strategy has many elements. First, it is to strengthen his party in his home state and then take it forward to the national level.

Secondly, the NCP supremo feels that Modi might advance the Maharashtra elections along with the Lok Sabha polls, which itself might be held sooner. In Maharashtra, the NCP-Congress alliance could win as the BJP’s partner Shiv Sena has parted company with the BJP. Some suspect that Pawar might have had a hand in Sena’s decision.

For long, it appeared as if Pawar was ambivalent in his relationship with the BJP, both in the Centre and the state. This vagueness upset the Congress too, but now Pawar has realised that the Congress and the NCP need each other.

Thirdly, Pawar wants effective floor coordination in Parliament. There are several issues on which the opposition can unite like on GST, farmers’ distress, price rise, Judge Loya’s death, the judicial crisis and so on.

But will the Congress yield to Pawar’s dreams and give up Rahul Gandhi’s claim to be an alternative to Modi? Being the oldest national party, the Congress thinks it is their birthright to rule the country.

While the NCP is elated that Rahul has emerged as a credible leader after the Gujarat polls, Praful Patel let the cat out of the bag saying, “Sharad Pawar can be the next Prime Minister in 2019. That year will be the year of Sharad Pawar and the NCP. It will not be difficult to achieve this dream.”

However, the numbers are not in NCP’s favour. It has only four members in the Lok Sabha now. Unless the Congress gets 150 seats in the next Lok Sabha polls, it will not be relevant, and in that scenario, Pawar could position himself as an acceptable face.

Pawar is pinning his hopes on the failure of the Modi government, and the survival instincts of the opposition parties. But there is a lot of churn in the non-Congress opposition camp too. The CPI-M is divided about having a tie-up with the Congress. The Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party will not be on the same side. The BJP is wooing the DMK. If the BJP-PDP ties break up, the National Conference could join the NDA. The regional parties have no interests beyond their states. Also, most of the opposition parties are small and fading away. With such inherent contradictions, is the opposition unity a realistic dream?

Pawar, like former President Pranab Mukherjee, has been a prime minister-in-waiting for many years. He had tried his chances against P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, unsuccessfully. His bid for the post of Congress President against Sitaram Kesri was also unsuccessful. Two years later, he broke the party over the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, and launched the NCP. He later joined hands with the Congress to form the government in Maharashtra and Delhi.

Since then, his relationship with the Congress has been a roller coaster ride. Pawar is a capable leader, an able administrator, has friends in almost all the parties, flexible and has an excellent fund-raising capacity. Even the BJP might prefer him to Rahul Gandhi. However, he is perceived as slippery, is 76-years-old, and it’s doubtful whether he can attract new voters.

The tug of war for the mentorship of opposition unity has begun between the two ailing leaders: Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi. Both are quite pragmatic, and may even surprise everyone by resolving the issue in an amicable way to remain relevant.

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  1. Congress in which ever garb is an established corrupt power centre.its caste based politics has already set our country back by a couple of decades.this new cocktail is another attempt to suck whatever is left of the country.

  2. This is the most corrupt person India has ever produced. He surpasses all the known corrupt, treacherous people across the globe. People fall pray to his sweet coated words and motherhood statements he utters when not in power. If permitted he should be publicly lynched.

  3. For the good future of Indian sovereign and the people of the sovereign, this current government’s ouster is the only way out.who becomes THE next prime minister of the the state is secondary.let the secular forces unite and come to the secular platform and who does it successfully can be Nex prime minister.

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