Calling himself a Congressman at heart, NCP founder leader Sharad Pawar says the future of the country’s oldest party looks uncertain.
Pawar also says in his just released autobiography “On My Terms” (Speaking Tiger) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s working style has caused a lot of worry and that governing India was unlike ruling Gujarat.
Although he broke away from the Congress in 1999 over its president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, Pawar said his “emotional bond with the Congress is strong even to this day.
“Hence, the Congress party’s deterioration in recent years makes me sad,” said the long-time Lok Sabha member from Baramati in Maharashtra who has been the country’s defence and agriculture minister.
“(Congress vice president) Rahul Gandhi is all set to revive the party but the future, as of now, looks uncertain.”
Pawar added that it was not a healthy sign that Congress politics now revolved only around Rahul Gandhi.
“As things look at present, it will be an uphill task for the Congress to stand up as a formidable alternative to the BJP at the national level.
“To be able to turn the tide, the Congress has no option but to take smaller and regional parties along.
“But for that to happen, it will have to create confidence among its prospective allies that it would run the coalition in the same spirit that (former prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee showed.”
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pawar says, did exhibit this ability during the decade that he headed the Congress-led UPA government in which the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was a part.
“However, let us not forget that the Congress of today is a lot weaker than it was in the UPA era,” he says in his 264-page book.
Rahul Gandhi, the NCP leader said, was “still young and should be given more time to prove his credentials...”
Referring to the nationwide tours of the younger Gandhi now, he said: “The Congress is in a very bad shape at present and a lot more needs to be done to set things right.”
The veteran politician also questioned Modi’s working style.
“Modi’s style of functioning has caused many worries. Ruling with an iron hand in a single state like Gujarat is one thing, but the same technique cannot be replayed for a long time when you are running the country.
“Political power has a tendency to concentrate in a few hands, and once that happens, it does not take much time to become corrupt. It is not a healthy sign that the BJP should hold on to Modi’s designer kurtas while the Congress politics revolves only around Rahul Gandhi.”
Pawar added: “The BJP’s popularity graph, which peaked in 2014, has begun to come down. Unless it takes quick corrective measures, the party will find it difficult to retain power for long.”
The ex-Congress leader said that while he was among the few who invited Sonia Gandhi to head the party after the 1991 assassination of her husband Rajiv Gandhi, “there was little warmth between us.”
“At best, our relations were cordial. She relied very heavily on just two or three people for running the party.”
Pawar then cites incidents that widened the gulf between him and Sonia Gandhi, forcing him to leave the Congress along with former party leaders PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar and set up the NCP.