Updated: December 30, 2021 2:31:27 pm
NCP CHIEF Sharad Pawar said Wednesday that the BJP was eager to tie up with his party after the 2019 Maharashtra elections but he was not in favour of such an alliance and told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “it was not possible”.
Speaking at the launch of Ashtavdhani, a coffee table book published by Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper from The Indian Express Group, to mark his 81st birthday, Pawar said: “It is true that there was a discussion about an alliance between our two parties. The Prime Minister said we should think about it…However, I told him right in his office that it was not possible and I would not like to keep them in the dark.”
Pawar was speaking to Loksatta Editor Girish Kuber about his political and social journey spanning more than 50 years after the book, written by eminent personalities from across different sectors, was unveiled by Bharat Forge MD Baba Kalyani.
Recalling the events following the state elections, Pawar said he had made a “mischievous” statement that NCP was seriously considering support for BJP. “This probably sowed doubt in the mind of Shiv Sena, which stepped forward for an alliance with Congress and NCP,” he said.
Asked whether he had sent his nephew Ajit Pawar to team up with BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis in what turned out to be an aborted bid to form a government, Pawar said: “If I had sent Ajit Pawar to BJP, then I would not have done an incomplete job.”
He said the BJP might have considered a tie-up with NCP because relations between his party and the Congress were strained at the time. “Since we were not getting along, BJP might have thought about an alliance with us,” he said.
In the run-up to the 2019 elections in Maharashtra, the BJP and Shiv Sena had an alliance while the Congress and NCP fought together. The BJP eventually emerged as the single largest party, but could not form the government as its alliance with the Sena broke down over the Chief Minister’s post.
The BJP then tried to garner the support of a section of the NCP and even got Fadnavis sworn in as chief minister with Ajit Pawar as deputy but this arrangement barely lasted a few hours. Eventually, the Sena switched camps and formed the government with NCP and Congress.
“Uddhav Thackeray took a different position because what was decided between him and BJP was not being implemented,” Pawar said, adding that the NCP backed the Sena for the late Balasaheb Thackeray, whom he described as a friend.
Asked about the assembly elections to be held soon in UP, Pawar said: “It is 50-50…there is no clear-cut winner. The way the Prime Minister went to Uttar Pradesh and announced a slew of projects only shows that the party (BJP) has taken the situation seriously in the state.”
According to Pawar, the poll verdicts of states, such as UP and Madhya Pradesh, play a decisive role in national politics. “Modi did the right thing by contesting the Lok Sabha poll from Varanasi… Because of his decision, the people of Uttar Pradesh have rallied behind him… I contested 14 elections, seven of which were Lok Sabha polls, but I never thought of contesting from outside the state,” he said.
Speaking about Modi, Pawar said: “He is ready to put in a lot of hard work and give time… He believes in taking the task he has taken up to its logical conclusion. He pays a lot of attention to the administration. However, if the general public’s problems are not resolved, the impact will not be seen… I find him lagging here. He believes in strong implementation of policy decisions and he has his own style of taking his government forward.”
He added that “when we meet, I never discuss state issues like ED (Enforcement Directorate) action against our leaders”.
On Wednesday, the ED submitted a supplementary chargesheet against NCP leader Anil Deshmukh in the money-laundering case filed in connection with alleged bribes collected from bar owners in Mumbai.
Pawar referred to Deshmukh’s case while speaking on “politics of vendetta”. “Anil Deshmukh, who was Home Minister in the MVA government, has been arrested primarily on the charge of Rs 4 crore deposited in his bank account by a firm. On this one charge, a 700-page chargesheet has been filed. It shows the extreme attitude towards an individual and a party,” he said.
The NCP chief said that he and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were against “politics of vendetta”, which some Cabinet colleagues in the then UPA Government were in favour of, against Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister. “It’s partly true that Manmohan Singh and I were against indulging in politics of vendetta against an elected chief minister though some Cabinet colleagues favoured such an action,” he said.
Pointing out that Modi, at the time, “had been severely critical of the Manmohan Singh government”, Pawar said: “This increased the distance between Delhi and Gujarat. There was no one else other than me who was ready to interact with Modi.” According to him, Manmohan Singh “accepted my arguments that we should not allow political differences to come in the way of the state’s development”.
Asked whether he should have set up NCP before 1999, Pawar said: “Though my family had Left political leanings, I was inspired by the ideology of Gandhi, Nehru, and Yeshwantrao Chavan. I was suspended by the Congress for six years as I expressed my views openly in the party’s meeting…After that, I had the task of providing a platform for my supporters…but I never left the ideology of Gandhi, Nehru and Yeshwantrao Chavan.”
He said that he had never wanted to return to Maharashtra politics in 1991 as Chief Minister. “But once I returned, I accepted it as a challenge,” he said.
Asked about his relationship with the late Balasaheb Thackeray, Pawar said: “Balasaheb (Thackeray) never hesitated about using the choicest words against me…but we always remained friends, cooperated and often discussed issues affecting the state.”
Responding to a question on tensions within the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, Pawar said he was “not worried” about the stability of the MVA government. “I was worried about the CM’s health but in the last 10 days, he seems to be taking all the decisions,” he said.
Asked whether a change is possible in future elections, Pawar said: “On the election field, it is not important as to who is in front of you. If people decide, change takes place, which has been proved in the past too. This will be seen in the coming elections…”
He said that in elections after the Emergency, there was no leadership in front of Indira Gandhi. “But different parties came together and fought the election. Morarji Desai was not the Prime Ministerial candidate from the Janata party then. Today, the situation is the same…However, there is a need for different parties to come together and form a front.”
Replying to another question, Pawar said caste-based politics does not last long. “We politicians sometimes play the caste card for selfish gains. But it does not last long. The common man thinks of progress, and that should always be done,” he said.
On the personal front, Pawar said he was not worried about his age. “But I believe in inspiring the younger generation and bringing their leadership to the fore. Therefore, I do not want to take any administrative leadership. I am playing the role of a ‘margadarshak’ for the smooth running of the state and the country,” he said.
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