SHARAD PAWAR was denied the opportunity to become Prime Minister of India twice in the 1990s by a “coterie” in the Congress, said Praful Patel, NCP General Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP, on Saturday. Later in the day, Patel claimed that the NCP chief’s “dream” to become the PM of the country could still be fulfilled.
“After Rajiv Gandhi’s unfortunate death during the Lok Sabha elections in 1991, the Congress was in a state of shock. There was a demand to make Pawar party president to handle the situation. However, the durbar coterie opposed the idea of a strong leader and hatched a plan to make P V Narasimha Rao as the party chief,” Patel wrote in an article published in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana on the occasion of Pawar’s 80th birthday.
Patel said the recalcitrance of Rao in 1996 to make way for Pawar led to him missing out a shot at the top post again in 1996.
“In 1996, the Congress won 145 seats. H D Deve Gowda, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav as well as Left leaders said they will support the Congress if Pawar is made PM, but Rao did not budge and the Congress was forced to support Deve Gowda from outside. “When Rao stepped down as the Congress president, he pushed the name of Sitaram Kesri as his successor to ensure that Pawar was not selected,” Patel wrote.
Patel in the signed article goes on to say that “coterie” within the Congress worked to undermine strong leaders in the party.
“Pawar strengthened his position as a front-rung leader in the Congress in a very little time. He was surely cut off for a prime ministerial role in 1991 and 1996, but the durbar (nepotism) politics of Delhi put a spanner. This was definitely a personal loss to him, but moreover for the party and the country,” Patel added.
Later in the day, while speaking to the media after attending an event organised by the NCP to mark Pawar’s 80th birthday, Patel said the “dream” of seeing Pawar at the helm of the country could still be fulfilled.
“Pawar missed the opportunity to become a Prime Minister on two occasions. If the entire opposition stands united, then we can bring about a change… If the entire Maharashtra is standing behind him, then it is natural that a different picture can emerge and our unfinished dream can be fulfilled,” Patel said.