Aafter a veiled reference to the RSS in his concern over whether people “want to hand over the country to chaddiwalas”, NCP president Sharad Pawar has now gone the whole hog in his criticism. “There are serious reservations about the RSS among the secular within the majority community. So, how can one expect the minorities to display their confidence in the RSS?” he said in an interview to The Indian Express at his Peddar Road residence in Mumbai.
The RSS’s “divisive politics didn’t augur well for the country,” he added.
On a break from his extensive campaign that included close to a hundred rallies, Pawar said the “hidden agenda” of the RSS-BJP was out in the open. “The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has the full backing of the RSS. Their manifesto includes controversial issues like Ram Temple and Article 371,” he said.
Pawar rubbished claims that late prime minister Indira Gandhi sought help from the RSS on national issues. “The RSS may have supported her after the creation of Bangladesh, that too because of anti-Pakistan sentiment. To my knowledge, the Congress has never sought help from the RSS,” he said.
Reflecting on the mood in the nation at the end of four phases of polling, he said, “ The coalition era is here to stay for at least the next 10 to 15 years. I still believe the next government will be either led by Congress or BJP.”
But he added that regional forces, like Mamata Banerjee, “who have worked with both Congress and BJP in the past will certainly not accept Modi at the helm. Atal Bihari Vajpyee was tolerant and accommodative. I don’t see similar traits in Modi who likes total control”. Playing up the divisions in the BJP, he said, “It is shocking to see BJP founder L K Advani at Modi’s mercy. Advani was forced to contest the seat suggested by Modi. Even Jaswant Singh, an excellent foreign minister and finance minister, was not given a ticket contest. It shows Modi’s highhandedness.”
Pawar doesn’t believe there is a Modi wave, but admits that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has touched a chord with the youth — something that his party, and the Congress completely lacked.
“I don’t believe there is a Modi wave. But Modi’s aggressive campaign, and adoption of modern methods and technology has made inroads among the younger generation. The Congress and NCP completely lacked in such initiatives as we went by our traditional methods,” he said. He said the Congress totally appeared laid back in its campaign. “It should have been collective team work. There are very good leaders in Congress like Digvijay Singh, who together would have been counter-effective.”
Pawar refused to comment on AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, but said, “ I feel a collective team work approach would have been better. In NCP, we have atleast a dozen leaders campaigning.”
However, he expressed “great satisfaction” over Congress and NCP working unitedly in this election. In a candid admission he said, “ I had given my consent to attend the Sonia Gandhi rally at Mumbai. But when I was told she could not attend, I decided to skip and campaign for my candidate. After all, my absence from the campaign would have affected my candidate.”