Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar should use the current party exodus to clean out the ranks of corruption.(HT Photo)
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar should use the current party exodus to clean out the ranks of corruption.(HT Photo)

Now is the time to kick out all the crooks

Congress and the NCP, need to kick out any more crooks left in their parties
Hindustan Times | By Sujata Anandan
UPDATED ON SEP 04, 2019 12:53 AM IST

Arguing the case for National Herald in the Supreme Court last week, when the paper’s lawyer RS Cheema asked for a post-lunch period the next day, Subramanian Swamy, the petitioner and Bharatiya Janata Party leader, commented sarcastically, “Oh, you have to argue for more crooks, is it?”

Cheema, as Bar and Bench reported, said deadpan, ”No. Now they are all in your party,” rendering the usually loquacious Swamy speechless.

So when, on Sunday, BJP president Amit Shah, at a rally in Solapur, taunted the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, saying that at the end of the day they will be left with only Prithviraj Chavan and Sharad Pawar respectively, I wondered if he was complimenting them for being the cleanest politicians in their parties, or if that was an admission that despite more than five years in power, the ruling dispensation has not been able to dig up any dirt on either.

Amidst much criticism of the misuse of government agencies and institutions to target political rivals, I also noticed that Shah did not mention leaders like former chief minister Ashok Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, both trusted aides of their respective party leaders, who have been accused of wrongdoing during their terms in office.

I presume then, that Shah believes even these two will eventually join the BJP, which student leader Kanhaiyya Kumar described as a washing machine – you join the BJP and the cases against you miraculously disappear, rendering you squeaky clean.

Even union minister Nitin Gadkari had admitted to the BJP taking in criminals, but said, whether tongue-in-cheek or otherwise, that his party turns the crooks it takes in into saints. Though, even he would know that not every modern-day crook can become a Valmiki.

The NCP has been suffering blow after blow by exits from the party.

Most of its stalwarts joining either the BJP or Shiv Sena have some wrongdoing to hide, and need that clean certificate from the BJP to escape retribution.

Now, there are rumours that even Chhagan Bhujbal, who spent two years in prison for nothing established against him, is re-entering the Shiv Sena.

For this, I believe Pawar has only himself to blame. His utterly self-centred politics over the past several decades set the wrong example to party men – to choose self over party.

Moreover, as a highly-networked leader of consequence, in the last five years, Pawar could have rallied the secular forces to his side, but instead, he continued to play footsie with the BJP, sending the wrong signals to voters.

If Bhujbal continues to stick by him, he should consider himself lucky, for I believe Bhujbal was offered up as a sacrificial lamb in order to save his nephew’s skin.

Now with another distant nephew Rana Jagatjit Singh, the son of his brother-in-law Padamsinh Patil (who needs help to get rid of the contract-killing charges levelled against him) having joined the BJP, Pawar could soon become what Shah predicted – the last man standing in his party.

Amidst all this mess, now comes a Facebook post from NCP MLA Jeetendra Awhad, long considered Pawar’s Man Friday, who fought his own party men bitterly in the past five years to keep the NCP secular and stop it from aligning with the BJP.

Awhad ‘s post, a cri de coeur for survival, though, is addressed not to Pawar but to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi who he sees as the sole person who can resurrect the secular forces in the country.

“I loved you so much, Rahul Gandhi,” Awhad writes in his post. “And now I hate you as much because you have betrayed my love by abandoning the field and leaving everybody, including the Congress, like headless chickens.”

In his appeal to Rahul to return centre-stage, I wonder if Pawar has the capacity to recognise the real gems in his party who are not swayed by any political pressure to switch sides or ideologies for whatever consideration.

Both, the Congress and the NCP, need to kick out any more crooks left in their parties, regroup, restart with a clean slate, and make use of men and women with a crystal-clear commitment to their parties and ideologies.

Pawar, wary of naming a political heir, always insisted he or she would rise from the grassroots. Now is the time to allow that to happen.

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