When Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar went to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the midst of confusion over Government formation in Maharahstra following Shiv Sena breaking the pre-poll alliance with its old and trusted partner BJP, it not only added to the mystery but set many tongues wagging as to the real intentions of the Maratha strongman. It is another matter that after the meeting he came out with a statement that the meeting was in connection with the problems being faced by Maharashtra farmers.
Could the meeting on farmers’ issue have waited for a few more days after the government (Congress-Shiv Sena-NCP) formation? Did the Machiavellian Pawar set out on another political machinations to at least pressurise the Congress and Sena to fall in line? Or else….?
Finally the three party coalition government was formed after much dilly-dallying and delay. The mystery still shrouds regarding timing of Pawar’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi.
However, the usually reticent and quite manoeuvre of political moves, Pawar sprang yet another surprise by going public to offer some explanation about logic behind this high profile meeting in the midst of unfolding political drama in Mumbai. In a series of interviews to news channels the surprise came in the form of the wily Maratha leader, contrary to his nature, unravelling some details of the meeting which rattled the BJP more than anyone else.
Those who knew Pawar’s brand of politics and true to his old political school branding not to divulge details of such meetings, he let the nation know about the offer Modi made to him ” to work together” in Maharashtra. The obvious reference was to a BJP-NCP government formation to checkmate the Shiv Sena. And Pawar’s response was a big no.
Why did Pawar go public to make this revelation? By now it is a well known fact that he has been badly hurt and bruised by Modi-Shah duo and local leaders of BJP in Maharashtra making personal insinuations against him and targeting him in their election campaign. Perhaps it was his chance to get even to a little but significant extent to expose Modi’s political plan to remain saddled in power in the politically important state and keep its estranged ally Shiv Sena out.
In this Pawar versus Modi match the former has proved to be smarter on more than one occasion. Firstly, it was the New Delhi propelled plan to target Pawar ahead of elections by raking corruption allegations against him in the infamous over Rs 1000 crore irrigation, and cooperative bank scams. Pawar called the bluff after stories emerged in media that he was soon to be summoned by Enforcement Directorate. He declared that he would walk up to the ED office to present himself for questioning without receiving any summon.
It created panic in the BJP and ED circles. Fearing that his march to ED office in Mumbai might lead to a public reaction, the higher police authorities went rushing to his house pleading that he cancel his plans as it would create a law and order situation. So, Pawar readily agreed and had the last laugh and took the wind out of BJP’s sails.
He acted to a plan while deciding to divulge that how Modi, while he (Pawar) was leaving the former’s office after meeting, called him to make an offer of “working together” in Maharashtra with an offer to make his daughter Supriya Sule a Union Minister. Finally, he politely rejected the offer explaining that it did not politically suit NCP thereby quietly giving another rebuff.
The semantics of this meeting, as explained by Pawar in the context of Maharashtra, could have great bearing on the future political events in the country as the scenario drew closer to 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Though a long way to go, the Congress-Shiv Sena-NCP government formation and Pawar’s stance vis a vis his meeting with Modi, cannot be viewed as a one-off-event. It has fore bearings on future political developments.
When asked by a news anchor whether these developments have paved way for repeat of Maharashtra scenario on national levels, Pawar’s response was though not in affirmative but he did not deny it a wee bit. “I do not know as no one from other political parties at the national level have spoken to me yet on this subject nor have I broached the issue with any of them,” was his candid response to the question. It clearly meant that he was open to the idea of opposition parties coming together at the national levels to check Modi juggernaut.
Pawar had a message for his ally Congress also which is being accused of delaying the coalition formation leading to unnecessary tensions. Did his nephew and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar crossed over the BJP camp in a mid-night coup with his (Sharad Pawar’s) consent as was being speculated? Although his answer was in negative, but Pawar significantly, divulged the possible reason behind Ajit taking this extreme step and subsequently returning to the NCP. “My nephew as apparently miffed after some Congress leaders had in the course of discussions on government formation targeted me and was peeved on the delay being caused by these leaders to drag the issue. So he went and met BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis to form the government,” he revealed.
His plan here is quite clear and through this revelation he has conveyed a strong message to the Congress high command as well without creating an ill will. The pointer is meant to set the record straight that if anyone was responsible for government formation in Maharashtra it was Congress and not NCP as was being made out that Pawar was raising his bargaining power.
From here on, Pawar is the one significant personality to be watched. Will he take the political centrestage once again to become glue for opposition unity?