Pawar disclosures puzzle audience
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s revelations over the past two days have set off fierce speculation in political circles and everybody is interpreting his statements and intention differently while conceding that the truth shall probably lie buried in India’s most crafty politician’s heart forever.
While the Shiv Sena has taken a simplistic view of Pawar’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered a deal for a BJP-NCP tie-up, seeing Modi’s purported move as a conspiracy to keep the estranged ally out of power in Maharashtra, the Congress is completely perplexed about the motive and contents of his revelations. Neutral political observers also insist the truth could be entirely different from the deliberate disclosures.
While the Congress is exceptionally careful not to rub Pawar the wrong way at this stage, a party leader told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity: “Pawar is capable of hiding 10 facts by revealing one. If Pawar speaks one sentence, look for a meaning in the 10 unspoken sentences you could imagine.
“What is interesting is that Pawar chose to publicly undermine the Prime Minister’s position by revealing that he (Pawar) spurned the offer of an alliance. More interesting is that neither the government nor the BJP nor the Prime Minister himself has issued a denial.”
This leader added: “We can’t see his revelation, that the Prime Minister wanted the NCP and the BJP to work together, in isolation. He also admitted that Ajit Pawar was in touch with the BJP. We now know that (Sharad Pawar’s nephew) Ajit Pawar had been negotiating with the BJP for long, even before the (Maharashtra election) results were declared.
“Why is (Sharad) Pawar making these disclosures now? Is he hinting to the Sena and the Congress that he is the pivot on which the government rests? Is he positioning himself as the supreme Opposition leader? Is he striking fear in the Maharashtra government that an alternative is possible?”
Another Congress leader said Pawar’s first interview (to ABP News) had “two clear purposes”.
“One, he (said publicly that he had) rejected Modi’s offer; and two, (he made it clear that) Ajit Pawar’s misadventure didn’t have his blessings. The second interview (to NDTV) attempted to salvage Ajit Pawar’s prestige as he (Sharad Pawar) tried to rationalise Ajit’s ‘extreme step’ by referring to the ‘heated arguments’ with Congress leaders.
“He said Ajit thought if the Congress could insult his uncle, how would it treat them (the others in the NCP). That means the Congress should share the blame for his (Ajit’s) inexplicable action. This formulation was either an afterthought or a planned step-by-step execution,” the Congress leader said.
These questions are haunting even independent political analysts, not only the Congress.
Most observers were surprised by Pawar’s decision to make these revelations at this stage and insisted that there was a game behind it.
The theories doing the rounds are:
- The original plan went awry as nobody expected Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to agree to an alliance with the Sena.
- Nobody could control the unfolding events as the Sena-NCP-Congress coalition took shape more because of the prevailing political dynamics than the desires of the key players.
- The last word hasn’t been spoken and a possible second episode could spring a surprise like it did in Bihar where JDU leader Nitish Kumar deserted the Grand Alliance with the Congress and the RJD in July 2017 and returned to the BJP.
But the Congress leadership is not in a mood to articulate its concerns, having invested so heavily in the new experiment. The party has decided to let Pawar steer the ship as long as he wants.
The Sena too has chosen to fire at the BJP instead of delving into the mysterious layers of Pawar’s famed stratagem. The editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana on Wednesday said: “Fascinating tales are tumbling out of the process of government formation which made a mockery of the BJP in Maharashtra.”
Referring to Modi’s purported offer to Pawar, the editorial said: “The behind-the-scenes operations were only aimed at keeping the Sena out of power. All talks of Hindutva are rubbish as the BJP decided to stab the Sena in the back, come what may. They tried to force the Sena to surrender and kept the alternative plan ready in case we didn’t bow to the pressure tactics. The people of India are witness to a new ‘by-hook-or-by-crook’ culture as the BJP uses coercion as well as persuasion to grab power.”
It added: “Why did the Prime Minister see the value of Pawar’s experience only now, why not during the last five years? Did Pawar become virtuous only because he won 54 seats, which the BJP needed? They were calling the NCP ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’.”
“Amit Shah asked what is Pawar’s contribution to Maharashtra. They filed cases to pressurise Pawar and Praful Patel; the corrupt instruments to grab power were all ready to be used. They wanted to milk Maharashtra. But (Sena chief and now chief minister) Uddhav Thackeray prevented that exploitation.”