The absence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar took the shine off Third Front’s rally in Bhubaneswar. He sent a message to Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik and others that a technical snag prevented him from boarding the plane in Nashik.
<b1>A voice message from Pawar was relayed to the audience over the loudspeaker. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary AB Bardhan and CPI leader D Raja were also at the rally. The NCP was represented by general secretary DP Tripathy and its state president.
In his speech, Bardhan said Pawar’s absence should not be wrongly interpreted. “There was a technical snag in Pawar’s aircraft,” he said. “There is no point in giving it a political colour. We have never said that Pawar is in the Third Front. But the Congress is already nervous whether Pawar will go away from the UPA.”
Karat said the coming together of the CPI, CPM, NCP and BJD was a historic step. He congratulated Patnaik for ending the alliance with the BJP and giving shape to a new alliance in Orissa.
Patnaik said, “Congress is an enemy of the state’s development as their leaders always focused on their personal enrichment in the past. The BJP is an enemy of societal peace. To strive for peace and development, people must vote for the BJD and its partners”.
In Mumbai, Pawar said his party was committed to the UPA and he had no electoral alignment with the Third Front or the Left. But he said, “I plan to go to Orissa soon to campaign for a day. My party is contesting eight assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat. We are in an electoral alliance with the BJD.”
Congress leaders privately believe that Pawar skipped the Bhubaneswar rally because of pressure from them. The NCP leader’s participation would have meant a further setback for the Congress after the SP, RJD and LJP formed a separate group within the UPA and the PMK crossed over to AIADMK.
The Congress reportedly conveyed to Pawar that it would be “forced” to take a stand if he pressed ahead with his engagement. The threat was said to have alluded to the alliance between the two parties in Maharashtra, where assembly elections are due later in the year.
In Delhi, Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal said, “There is no question of being happy or unhappy about it.” But was Pawar trying to ride two horses at the same time? “I go by his statement that he is with the UPA and with us in Maharashtra and Goa,” said Sibal. “We do not question him.”
(With HTC inputs from Delhi, Mumbai)