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‘Govt’s power being used to benefit BJP, create obstructions for Opposition’, says NCP chief Sharad Pawar

“An aspect of this election is the use of BJP’s money power. For the first time I am seeing huge money being used...the Opposition practically has no money,” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 09, 2019 14:22 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar, played a key role to bring the Opposition together and take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming general elections.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar, played a key role to bring the Opposition together and take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming general elections.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
         

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar, played a key role to bring the Opposition together and take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming general elections. He spoke to Shailesh Gaikwad. Edited excerpts:

How would you assess the election campaign so far?

I can see hostility towards Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi and the BJP. I am campaigning in rural areas and public opinion is against them. I knew there was resentment, but was unaware of the scale of discontent among farmers. I won’t be surprised if the BJP loses.

How is the 2019 election different from the 2014 one?

An aspect of this election is the use of BJP’s money power. For the first time I am seeing huge money being used...the Opposition practically has no money. For those who want to contribute, the banks are asking questions... Candidates need money for buying campaign material, hiring vehicles and organising rallies. The government’s power is being used for the benefit of the BJP and to create obstructions for the Opposition. I have never seen this in my political life of 52 years.

We have seen many tough leaders, prime ministers from [Jawaharlal] Nehru to Indira Gandhi and [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee. They always maintained a certain dignity... Opposition parties criticised, but there were no personal attacks… for the first time there are personal attacks by Modi — like (his) continuous attack of the Gandhi family. ... In his campaign in Wardha, he attacked me.

Modi said your nephew, Ajit Pawar, is taking control of NCP.

Is this an election issue? He said Pawar’s next generation is trying to throw him out of his party and they want to control the NCP. What is this nonsense? My family is together. It shows that he is unable to talk about his contribution. That is why he is taking the election campaign in a different direction.

What has gone wrong since he called you his guru?

My equation with him was good. I was agriculture minister during the [Congress-led] UPA [United Progressive Alliance] rule at the Centre, and I had accepted the challenge of increasing India’s agricultural production and we even succeeded in doing so. It was not possible without the cooperation of states. And the states are the responsibility of chief ministers... I regularly visited the states. The situation in Gujarat was different. Modi was the chief minister and his equation with Congress was bad. There was no dialogue between the Centre and Modi. I was the only minister visiting his state and he used to come to my place to discuss his problems. Now, things are different. We started criticising him over certain issues (policies of his government) and I think he is unhappy about it.

Have your attempts to bring opposition parties together fizzled out?

We were trying to bring opposition parties together to create awareness against the government. We were not thinking about providing an alternative... We organised some rallies... And we have also come to the conclusion that election will be contested by every party according to the situation in their state and come together after the election. In 2004, we had not contested elections together. Post-election, we decided to form the UPA. Then we selected Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.

Why are there multi-cornered contests in states like Uttar Pradesh?

Most of the opposition parties have bases in certain areas. We thought let these forces concentrate on their effective bases, which will be ultimately beneficial. As per our strategy, we came to the conclusion that if we have to get good numbers in Uttar Pradesh, BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] chief Mayawati and SP [Samajwadi Party] chief Akhilesh Yadav should come together. Fortunately, they worked out an alliance. When it came to including Congress in their front, Mayawati and some other colleagues felt that the base of most of the parties is on the basis of castes. The SP gets support of Yadavs and minorities. The BSP gets votes of scheduled castes and minorities. The BJP is preferred by upper castes. Among the upper castes, Brahmins are associated with Congress. The leaders of SP-BSP felt that the Congress would not be able to transfer its votes. Those votes would go to the BJP if Congress is not contesting. As such, if Congress contests separately, it would benefit them.

Why have the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress not joined hands despite your attempts?

[Delhi chief minister Arvind] Kejriwal was reasonable but Congress, particularly some senior leaders like Sheila Dikshit, took a very harsh line. That is why the Congress president [Rahul Gandhi] was interested, but could not forge an alliance...

 

First Published: Apr 09, 2019 07:26 IST

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