Sharad Pawar, the veteran politician, started blogging in October and has already hit the headlines. On a day when political talk revolved around the spectacular rise of Arvind Kejriwal’s party in Delhi and the rout of the Congress party in four states, Pawar managed to occupy space in the national headlines.
On his blog post on December 9, he wrote a 1,212-word prescriptive piece on how Indians want “a strong, decisive and result-oriented leadership”. He praised the late Indira Gandhi for being such a leader (he spelt it “Gandi” but then blogging is his new skill, you see). In this, he sounded most suspiciously like his old late rival and Indira-admirer Bal Thackeray.
Pawar didn’t identify the leaders who do not fit the bill but the options are tantalisingly open — it could be his national bête noire Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the new-old kid on the block Rahul Gandhi, or his state bête noire Maharashtra chief minister Prithivraj Chavan whom he earlier criticised as indecisive and slow to clear files.
There are only two who fit Pawar’s job description of a leader. One, going by the popular discourse, which in turn has been largely fuelled by a crafty communications campaign, is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but Pawar cannot hold up Modi as Indira Gandhi’s successor to the leadership mantle when he’s still sharing power with the Congress. The other, you guessed it, is Pawar himself. But how could he possibly say so, even on his blog?
It’s not that Pawar’s criticism is invalid. He hit the nail on its head. But why now? He’s riding the anti-incumbency sentiment to extract his pound of political mileage. He wants to show that the crisis is in — and for — the Congress, not for the UPA of which he has been a happy partner for nine years. It’s his way of distancing himself from the Congress and its many failures, while simultaneously re-positioning to bargain for a larger share of seats in Maharashtra for the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections later that year. He may well break away from the Congress if it’s routed in the Lok Sabha polls.
In the same blog post, Pawar gave us a new construct that could become a mainstream blaspheme in the weeks ahead: pseudo-activist. He ventilated: “… weak leadership at various level has given a rise to bunch of pseudo activist who has no connect with ground reality. It is observed that not only media but also people in government get influenced by these people. They come up with unrealistic ideas”.
No candies for correct guesses here — he’s talking about the National Advisory Council members, Arvind Kejriwal in his pre-politician avatar, those who batted for the food security Bill, those who protested the deforestation and privatisation of land as in his favourite project Lavasa, those who stymied his march of genetically modified crops, among others. This is the first time that Pawar, who was politically reared on social activism, has lashed out thus. Something must have hurt.
Pawar also took on Kejriwal and warned him that he would soon find out just how difficult it was to make good election promises. Let’s wait and watch what Kejriwal accomplishes, but Pawar’s bitterness about Kejriwal lies elsewhere. Kejriwal’s success has shown the possibilities of a people-centric political ideology, something Pawar identified with in his early days, and then abandoned. Also, Kejriwal has done to the Congress what Pawar would have loved his fledgling NCP in 1999 to do in Maharashtra. Instead, he must depend on the Congress to be in power. That, too, must hurt. Deeply so.