By Sushil Kutty
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks less and less invincible, there is a political churning happening in the country and the Opposition parties are electric with possibilities, with several of them hoping to come together to mount a collective challenge to the Modi-Shah juggernaut. And it’s at such times that there’s a search for a viable alternative. It appears like the search will end at NCP supremo Sharad Govindrao Pawar’s door.
Sharad Pawar is no stranger to any of us. His name-recognition is in the high 90 percent. He has been Maharashtra Chief Minister more than once. And in Baramati, Pune district, every blade of grass grows at his discretion. That’s no exaggeration. Of late, though it’s a Sule who calls the shots in Baramati. No problem. Supriya Sule is Sharad Pawar’s daughter, and she represents Baramati in the Lok Sabha.
Sharad Pawar was Congressman for decades before he split and formed the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999 over differences with the Gandhis. Today, the NCP is a constituent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) that rules Maharashtra. And if there’s a politician to whom Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tips his hat to, it’s Sharad Pawar.
That said, Sharad Pawar quit state-level politics long ago. Nowadays, Sharad Pawar is kingmaker and the maker of government; his hand over the head is sure shot anointment, like Mukhya Mantri Uddhav Thackeray would vouch.
That’s one reason why ‘Being Sharad Pawar’ is important in today’s world, both in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and in New Delhi, India. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray literally rules the roost because of Sharad Pawar’s munificence. Ask Sanjay Raut, if nobody else!
So, what sets Sharad Pawar apart from stalwarts of his ilk? For one, he’s not just another Congressman who left the grand old party. ‘In’ the Congress or ‘out’ of the Congress, Sharad Pawar didn’t kow-tow. In sugarcane country Baramati, the Pawars are the salt of the earth.
Sharad Pawar’s autobiography ‘On My Terms: From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power’ is an account of his 50 years in public life. And if anyone thought that at 80, he’s beyond the pale, murder the thought. After MVA he has set his eyes on stitching a coalition to unseat Narendra Modi, and it might even succeed.
Perchance, he might even replace Modi at the helm though there are other claimants, from Rahul Gandhi to perhaps Mamata Banerjee. They all want to become Prime Minister, but they’re aware that if push comes to shove, Sharad Pawar could get the President’s invitation!
Don’t forget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi concedes that Pawar is his political guru. Sharad Pawar is perhaps the shrewdest politician to come out of Maharashtra, and you can go back to the Peshwa’s time to arrive at the conclusion.
To the casual observer, Sharad Pawar emanates raw power. He stands tall over stalwarts of his age and time. You don’t have to like him or know him to realize that Sharad Pawar commands more than just respect, perhaps even fear, a deadly combination if both co-exist in a person.
Besides, just when Mamata Banerjee is on Cloud 9 and poll strategist Prashant Kishor thinks he’s Chanakya, and then when the person both gravitate to is Sharad Pawar, then you know what ‘Being Sharad Pawar’ really is! Especially these days of hard political churning.
Kishor met Sharad Pawar thrice in a fortnight at the behest of Mamata Banerjee, who maybe thinks her ticket to 7, Lok Kalyan Marg goes via Sharad Pawar’s abode, though it’ll be mighty foolish of her to assume that Pawar may not want to be PM!
For, subsequent to the Kishor-Pawar meetings, there was another meeting that took place at Pawar’s 6, Janpath Delhi residence. The only interested parties missing were the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Two days later Pawar said there cannot be an ‘oust-Modi coalition’ without the Congress in the mix.
“If an alternative force is to be raised, it will be done only by taking Congress together,” was Pawar’s cryptic reply to a pointed question. Cagey Pawar! Everybody knows that Pawar will divulge little. Pawar understands and plays politics too good for anybody to beat him in the game.
True, NCP is a regional Maharashtra-based party. It’s got a patchy presence. But the Lakshadweep MP is also NCP! Minus Pawar, the NCP might not have the political heft. And compared to the Congress, it’s a pygmy. It’s also dynastic. So what’s Pawar’s importance? It’s his “ability to be all things to all people across the political spectrum”. He also has the knack to “aim for the large prize, audaciously.” Like he did in Maharashtra in 2019. Even today, Pawar stands between BJP and power in Maharashtra.
At the national level, Sanjay Raut has been floating the idea of a UPA with Pawar at the helm. The NCP supremo shares a good rapport with all opposition bigwigs, and there’s confidence in him that if anybody, he’ll be able to stitch a cohesive coalition against the BJP. The time is also right. BJP and Modi are losing steam, as also standing. This is perhaps the first time in seven years that Narendra Modi looks a pale shadow of himself, and Sharad Pawar more than just another power-broker. (IPA Service)