If the statement does any harm, it has done it to the credibility of Sharad Pawar. Earlier too, Sharad Pawar has shown signs of growing closeness with BJP in Maharashtra.
“We are absolutely convinced that prime minister of India is corrupt. This question is now settled into minds of Indian people that – Desh ka Chowkidaar Chor hai, ye logon ke dimaag me ghuss gaya hai.” A few days ago this is what Rahul Gandhi, the president of Congress-India’s main opposition party said about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was reiterating his party’s demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the now much controversial Rafale Deal between India and France. Just a week after Rahul Gandhi called Modi a “thief”, Sharad Pawar said,“people don’t think there was the bad intention of Mr. Modi in this.” He was talking in an interview with a regional tv channel.
One has to be politically naïve or completely unaware to think that the statement wouldn’t cause a flutter in political circles. After all, since the time of the inception of the allegation of irregularities in the Rafale deal, the Congress has targeted PM Modi and directed the onus of explanation towards the Prime Minister himself. However, in the midst of Congress’ aggressive hashtag war “#ChowkidarHiChorHai”, the statement by Sharad Pawar-President of Congress’ closest ally NCP seems to defeat the party’s bid for opposition unity.
As expected, the news hit the stand and led to the political pandemonium of the highest degree. So much so, that the number of BJP leader jumped in to congratulate Sharad Pawar including the BJP President Amit Shah. Well, the statement did not go down well with some party members and one of them even decided to quit. Visibly upset with Pawar’s statement Tariq Anwar, the party’s the oldest and the senior member left the party and even resigned from his Loksabha seat. Speaking about his resignation Anwar said, “He cannot betray the common perception over irregularities in the deal.” He further added, “I resigned after being hurt by Pawar Saheb’s comments. There must be a thorough probe on the corruption in Rafale deal.”
While Tariq Anwar’s name may have faded from the active politics, it must be recalled that he was the co-founder of Pawar’s NCP. Though his political career started with Indian National Congress, he accompanied his fellow Congressmen Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma in 1999 and severed ties with the party. The three leaders together set up Nationalist Congress Party. The main reason why Pawar, Sangma, and Anwar walked out of Congress, was Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins. Threatened with the growing importance and influence of Sonia Gandhi in the party, like many others, these three thought that she would be party’s PM choice if Congress wins. However, the idea that an Italian origin woman becoming the Prime Minister of India was as unbearable to some Congressmen as it was for another majority Indians. In 2004, however, as NCP joined hands with former rival Congress to form a government, Sangma broke away from the party leaving behind Tariq Anwar and Sharad Pawar.
Anwar who originally hails from Bihar is an NCP MP from Katihar constituency of the state. He is the lone NCP MP from Bihar. In the days after its formation, NCP grew exponentially in Maharashtra. However, the party remained negligible in Bihar. Even in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party’s vote share was only 1.20%. Though Tariq Anwar is among some well-reckoned names in politics, he didn’t enjoy much power in the party. Thus, even though NCP showed a surprise over Anwar quitting the party, it does not get affected in practical terms.
If the statement has done any harm, it has done it to the credibility of Sharad Pawar. Earlier too, Sharad Pawar has shown signs of growing closeness with BJP in Maharashtra, particularly. As the Shivsena-BJP split was a seeming reality, the political scoop in the town was NCP was ready to jump in the equation with BJP. However, the Sena-BJP split never happened. Thereafter, NCP several times vouched for its commitment to the opposition unity. Even during a press conference last year, when asked by HW News, Sharad Pawar himself had said that the ideological difference is the reason that there is no question of a coalition between NCP and BJP. However, time and again, this stance of Pawar seems to be rickety. What is interesting about Pawar’s statement is that it comes as a sharp contradiction to Congress’ stand on an issue that it wants to base its 2019 Lok Sabha Election campaign on. Incidentally, it is also the time when the talks are being held between prominent state leaders of NCP and Congress to discuss the coalition and seat-sharing.
In the leaderless opposition unity where many leaders are dreaming of the PM post, the name of Sharad Pawar as a front-runner appears often. Recently, denting Congress’ effort to project Rahul Gandhi as an opposition’s PM candidate Pawar cleared that the party that will get a majority, will decide the PM candidate. However, with such frequent statements, Pawar’s and NCP’s commitment to the opposition unity keeps coming under the clouds of suspicion.
At a time when the warm-up for the 2019 elections has begun are these the early signs of crumbling opposition unity before it could even take off? Well, certainly it indicates towards the testing times for the opposition unity ahead!