Sharad Pawar works the phones to get new partners for anti-BJP bloc
On Sunday, when exit poll results were being telecast, the 78-year-old leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Sharad Pawar, was busy working the phone lines to reach out to leaders from three non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parties that have largely remained away from the Opposition alliance talks so far.
Hindustan Times has learnt from officials aware of developments in the NCP and the Congress that Pawar was getting in touch with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). While Jaganmohan Reddy (YSRCP) wasn’t available because he is travelling abroad, Pawar spoke to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (BJD) and Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (TRS), an NCP functionary said, requesting anonymity.
The functionary added that the discussion between KCR, as K Chandrashekar Rao is popularly called, and Pawar took place at KCR’s farmhouse outside Hyderabad. The functionary said KCR confirmed to Pawar that his party would be open to supporting the United Progressive Alliance in the event of a hung Parliament.
TRS’s Rajya Sabha MP J Santhosh Kumar, however, denied that KCR had spoken to Pawar.
The NCP functionary said that Pawar, who has been in contact with Patnaik since the election for the deputy chairman’s post in the Rajya Sabha last August (NCP’s BK Hariprasad eventually lost to NDA candidate Harivansh), also got a positive response about a possible tie-up from the Odisha CM if the numbers were in their favour. Patnaik’s office did not respond to queries seeking comment.
“Shri Pawar has been in touch with almost all non-NDA political parties over the last few days. He’s been doing this even before political schedule started and this is part of the reaching out. We are all now waiting for the results,’’ said Rajya Sabha MP from Sharad Pawar’s party, Majeed Memon. He said Pawar did not share details of the calls that were made to the parties on Sunday.
Congress managers who are now working out the post-poll strategy confirmed Pawar’s role as one of the key people talking to parties who may be open to supporting the United Progressive Alliance. “He is talking to everybody,” said a senior leader, asking not to be named.
A senior YSRC leader, who asked not to be named, said Jaganmohan was sceptical about engaging with the Opposition camp because his political rival in Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, is playing an important role in the grouping as a key negotiator. “Do they want a five- member party (Telugu Desam) or a 35-member bloc (the TRS and YSRCP together)?”asked the YSRCP leader.
Andhra Pradesh sends 25 members and Telangana 17 to the 543-member Lok Sabha. Odisha has 21 representatives in the Lower House.