NCP chief Sharad Pawar discusses Modi blitz and Cong silence in this interview to P Vaidyanathan Iyer
Given that you have watched and contested elections for 30 years, what do you find different this time?
I see the BJP under Mr Narendra Modi using media very effectively. Tactically he has booked substantial space in various types of media and he started two months in advance. Generally, whenever there are elections, we get an opportunity for speaking 15 minutes each in AIR, DD. Various private channels also give reports of our meetings. But nobody gives an entire speech, and that too everyday… He (Modi) has successfully planned and is taking advantage of these various types of media very effectively, which the Congress or any other political party has never done. Previously leaders were going to the masses and addressing meetings. But now, we have seen a different approach adopted by the BJP.
Does Modi’s campaign style worry you?
It is unfortunate. They are not asking for votes for the BJP. They are asking for votes for one individual, Mr Modi. That’s why the total projection is one man. And for any democratic country, if the projection is for one man and the overall sense, support within that party is controlled by one man that might create serious problems tomorrow if he succeeds. Now we have seen the entire BJP is practically controlled by Mr Narendra Modi. We have seen that Mr Advani, such a senior person, former president, one of the founder members of the BJP, was asking for Bhopal. But even he could not get Bhopal because Mr Modi was keen to offer him Gandhinagar. He had to accept Gandhinagar. A person like Jaswant Singh, a tall personality in Parliament, could not get Barmer. He had to go there and contest as an independent… Murli Manohar Joshi has been shifted. That shows the grip of Mr Modi. Tomorrow, if he succeeds in controlling the overall country’s interests and the party is projecting him as a person, so. Hitler also got elected initially and then ultimately he was established as a dictator in that particular country. I don’t say exactly like that. But the direction seems to be like that and that will create a serious situation for the Indian parliamentary system.
What kind of poll outcome do you see?
Firstly, we have to accept that there are two major fronts… one, NDA, second, UPA. Those who are part of these two fronts, ultimately after the polls, I don’t think anybody will get a clear majority. So… they have to depend on others. Then, there are some regional forces and they will definitely have some say. Either Mamataji, either Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Naveen Patnaik, Mulayam Singh. The national parties, major parties will have to depend on the support of these regional forces. That’s why I am worried about stability. You see, we have to accept one thing in this country for the next 10-15-20 years. Political leaders should mentally accept that they have to work along with other parties, whether small or big, and we have to run and provide a stable government. But we have seen in India, a coalition government under the leadership of Morarji Desai could not succeed, Charan Singh could not succeed. Chandrasekhar, I K Gujral, Deve Gowda, too, could not succeed. The leaders of parties, if they accept they can’t bypass coalition government, then one has to develop the art of running a coalition government. And that art we are seeing in Kerala for years together. There is a coordination committee, they meet, discuss prior to taking decisions in the council of ministers.
Many Congress and NCP workers suggest the Congress seems to have given up?
I think a Congress worker is working effectively… he wants to fight. I don’t know about the leaders. I think, even at this age, and that too in a Congress constituency, I am taking a more aggressive stance.
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Are you worried about a Modi wave in rural Maharashtra?
I see something in the younger generation in urban areas. In some of the surveys predicting we will be wiped out, I don’t think so. I honestly feel NCP will get more (seats) than last time.
Besides the BJP’s high-decibel campaign, what else do you find different?
I don’t see the Congress going that aggressively.
What explains your statement some time ago that courts have vindicated Mr Modi?
A question was asked to me: courts have given such and such a judgment, what is your view? What do you say about a court judgment? I respect the judiciary and judicial verdict. How can I pass a comment against a judicial decision? I said, yes, I had to accept the judicial decision. So the interpretation is you are courting NDA.
That is all humbug. As agricultural minister, it was my responsibility to improve the productivity and production of agricultural products. Agricultural is a state subject. Any state I had to meet, I had to help, had to resolve the problems. I was meeting every CM, again and again, encouraging them, supporting them. Modi is no exception. My equation with CMs is extremely good. I think it is the responsibility when somebody is sitting as a minister in the union government, how can he take a different view on different states at a political level? If you start thinking on political angle, it will harm the people of India.
How important is this election to the NCP?
Basically, the NCP is contesting 21 seats. We are not going to form the government. We will support the Congress. Our basic interest will be the next assembly elections. Now we want to win an impressive number of seats and try to expand our base. Ours is a small party. We will not be able to create any impact at the national level.