On the eve of general elections,and having decided to hang up his boots from Lok Sabha,Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar talks to Pranab Dhal Samanta on what lies ahead for him,and holds forth on today’s political scenario.
Now that you won’t contest Lok Sabha elections,what is ahead for you?
I have had 46 years in politics without a break. Once you are in the hurly-burly of elections,either Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha,you are morally responsible to be always there for the electorate. I spend sleepless nights if I can’t pay enough attention! I feel this is the right time to enter the House of Elders. My party has two seats in Rajya Sabha which fall vacant in February. I intend to attend Rajya Sabha regularly.
As an elder in politics,what do you think of today’s young MPs?
I get the opportunity to meet young MPs because of my daughter who has many friends across parties. And on several occasions,they have come to my house. I feel happy the younger generation,irrespective of party,is taking up causes. Some years ago,they chose malnutrition. They went to Bhubhaneswar,visited two or three affected districts. They met Navin Patnaik and also me. It’s a good thing that youngsters are coming together on issues and not letting party rivalry come in the way. That is a good sign.
And what about Rahul Gandhi?
I don’t know. I have no personal knowledge about his abilities. His family background certainly equips him with better knowledge of various situations. He can assess them better. But I personally have had no association with him.
Should Rahul Gandhi be in Cabinet?
That is the prerogative of the Prime Minister and the Congress party,which is the largest party in our set-up. If they bring him in,then it will be a good thing.
What is your assessment of Narendra Modi?
My observation is that if anyone tries to project himself too early,he invites trouble. I think the BJP and Narendra
Modi have started their projections too early and with a definite position.
I don’t know what will happen. Secondly,in coalition politics — which will continue — the PM candidate should be someone who has acceptability among all regional parties. In my view,the key figures after the next Lok Sabha elections will be Mamata,
Navin,Mulayam Singh,Mayawati,Nitish and Jayalalithaa. They will get some definite numbers after the election. On their own,they may not be able to reach that magic figure,but without their support nobody will be able to reach that magic figure. Now,use your own brain on who will support whom.
What are the NCP’s plans?
We are with the Congress and will remain with the Congress. The UPA’s line will be our line.
Do you have aspirations to be the PM?
I have contested elections for 46 years,spent 28 of them as a minister here and there. I think I have had enough. Now,let me enjoy my life.