Beating both sides of the drum
In the immediate aftermath of the demonetisation of high denomination notes, when Sharad Pawar was among the two Opposition leaders (Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar being the other one) who welcomed the Centre’s move, I suspected something was not quite right.mumbai Updated: Nov 22, 2016 17:31 IST
In the immediate aftermath of the demonetisation of high denomination notes, when Sharad Pawar was among the two Opposition leaders (Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar being the other one) who welcomed the Centre’s move, I suspected something was not quite right.
It soon became apparent that Pawar had held his fire not to jeopardise Modi’s visit to the Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune, an autonomous body of cane growers headed by himself, to inaugurate an international conference on sugar.
Both the leaders appropriately showered sugary praises on each other. While Modi may have been a tad more sincere about saying that Pawar has been working tirelessly in the interest of farmers over the last 50 years, I wonder how honest Pawar was in similarly complimenting Modi as a hardworking Prime Minister because less than a week later, it was clear Pawar had not meant a word he said about Modi.
At an election rally in the suburbs, he not only ridiculed Modi’s obsession with a bullet train between Bombay and Ahmedabad, but also lammed the demonetisation policy as anti-poor and causing immense trouble to the common man that it was bound to bring about a change in the ruling dispensation after the elections.
The state BJP was startled by the almost seamless change of track and described Pawar as a “double dholki”. But those who know Pawar well were not surprised. The Maratha warlord’s statements are always pre-meditated and carefully calibrated. His supporters know to always take his compliments with fistfuls of salt. When pictures of him and Modi at the Pune meet showing them seated, head to head, in cosy comfort first emerged, a political analyst told me, “They are birds of a feather. And I think Pawar is still seeking an alliance with the BJP.”
“Birds of a feather” because Pawar and Modi are both of similar disposition in terms of their ambitions and belief in capitalism. While Modi achieved his target within a miraculously short period of time, Pawar had been trying for longer than we all know and is very embittered at his lack of success and thus is unlikely to really think nice things about Modi. So Pawar was more true to his self at the election rally when he faulted Modi for allegedly “wasting” Rs98,000 crore on one train when that money would have gone a long way in improving the lives of commuters on local trains of the metro cities in this country.
But even if the BJP thinks that Pawar is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, they must know he was more sincere in his criticisms than he was while showering praises on the man in whose shoes he would dearly have loved to be. In those shoes, not only would the former agriculture minister have utilised that kind of money for the greater good of the poorer people in the country, he would also have understood instinctively how the demonetisation undertaken by the government would have affected the interests of the farmers who are at the start of the rabi season, after a good monsoon, but find their prospects torpedoed by the severe cash crunch that the policy has brought about.
And Pawar has been more honest in his expression that he hopes that such alleged follies on the part of the Centre will help to vote the BJP out of power in the civic elections from now to early next year.
I believe that although Modi did a fine job of praising Pawar to the skies, he may not have given any signals of a possible overt or even covert alliance with the NCP. The NCP has been blowing hot and cold with the Congress over this issue even though most local Congressmen are vehemently opposed to trusting the party again.
But with the NCP’s fortunes going steadily downhill, Pawar is in dire need of some astounding victories at a handful of elections to stay afloat in the near future. He clearly believes that that relevance has to be had more by being on the right side of the ruling party than allying with a defeated Congress.
So we could have many more such “double dholki” comments and positions taken by him in the days to come. But I wonder if Pawar realises how much more irrelevant to the polity he renders himself by such frequent flip-flops?