Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has proposed that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and he — three senior leaders with “no ambition to become Prime Minister” — should come together to unite the Opposition, travel throughout the country, give confidence to the people, and provide a robust counter-narrative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Pawar has also, for the first time, opened the doors of the NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and said that while he had not discussed the issue with BSP chief Mayawati, he would be ‘happy’ since this association will pay dividends.
Pawar laid out a detailed roadmap for the Opposition for 2019. He compared the current political situation to 1975-77; argued that disillusionment has set in against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like it had against Indira Gandhi; and suggested that the Opposition focus should be on state-wide alliances instead of a national alliance. Pawar called for the leadership question to be left for after the elections, and while urging the Congress to adopt a “rational approach” on state partnerships, said that he has felt over recent conversations that Rahul Gandhi has “substantially improved”.
Emphasising the parallels between the current political climate and the situation in 1975-77, when he was a minister in the Maharashtra government, Pawar said that like Indira Gandhi, Modi too had “control of media, government and government agencies”.
At that time too, he said, people were pointing to the lack of an alternative platform, organisation and leader to pose a genuine challenge.
“The difference is there was one leader – Jayaprakash Narayan. Political leaders and people were willing to accept his advice. And ultimately on his advice, most leaders forgot their parties.” Pawar said that it was eventually after the election that the Janata Party came together and Morarji Desai was elected the leader.
He added, “I honestly feel that there are some leaders, like Sonia Gandhi, (HD) Deve Gowda and, while I should not say it, myself also…we have no ambition to become Prime Minister. At least I am speaking for myself. But I have ambition to bring all these forces together and provide a viable alternative. For that, some of us – the names I have mentioned – can travel throughout India and give confidence to the people of India because today, there is no JP (Jayaprakash Narayan).”
The BJP did not comment on Pawar’s remarks.