Sharad Pawar playing ducks and drakes again?Updated: Jan 02, 2019 00:42 IST
I have heard it said in Congress circles that senior party leader Ahmed Patel recently gave Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar a dressing down for his flip-flop over Narendra Modi.
“You either want an alliance with us or you need to go openly with the BJP. This cloak-and-dagger game you play will not do.”
Pawar seemed quite chastened after that, but I can see he is playing ducks-and-drakes again, this time cloaking his equivocation in injured esteem. There is no acceptable reason otherwise why, despite his forbidding them to do so, a whole bunch of NCP corporators from Ahmednagar should go against his explicit instructions and support the BJP candidate at the mayoral elections in Ahmednagar.
In a series of tweets, Pawar said he had explicitly told the Ahmednagar corporators who had met him a day before that they must not vote for either the Shiv Sena, which is the single largest party in the Ahmednagar corporation or the BJP under any circumstances.
“When I was so clear, I see no reason why there should have been any ambiguity,” he said. State party president Jayant Patil has issued show-cause notices to them but that clearly is like bolting the stable doors after the horses have escaped.
Why the entire drama defies credibility is because not even a single worker in the NCP even today dares defy Sharad Pawar’s diktats and hopes to live to tell that tale. Pawar’s style is vastly different from those of other political leaders like the late Bal Thackeray who would simply send a few goons to break the bones of his rebels or even have them killed outright as happened in the case of Shridhar Khopkar, a corporator in the Thane Municipal Corporation who cross-voted in favour of the Congress at a mayoral election in the 1980s and paid with his life – he was brutally murdered and dismembered, the incident running a chill down the spines of most people at the time.
Pawar’s way has always been more civilised. He never believed in violence. Moreover if you are dead and gone, how would you suffer the price you have to pay for betrayal? So people have always been ever more afraid of Pawar’s ire than Thackeray’s – for they would find themselves socially, financially and politically bankrupted and ostracized for daring to be disloyal to Pawar. There have been examples cited of the same, particularly a vintner from Nashik who found himself bankrupted for daring to help defeat Pawar by one vote at his first attempt to get elected to the Board of Control for Cricket in India in the early 2000s.
So if the Ahmednagar corporators have actually defied Pawar and voted against his wishes for the BJP, the defiance now tells me that either Pawar has lost his grip on not just his party but also on the situations he would use to get even with disloyal party men or that the entire episode is just another one of his attempts to cover both his flanks to make provisions for any eventuality in the future.
But if things were to be taken at face value, I would say the BJP is still buying loyalty over from other political parties. And the Congress and NCP particularly need to re-examine their options and evolve ways and means to retain loyalty of party workers without having to dispense hard cash for the same. For money is a commodity that the BJP has in ample supply and no party is likely to match their resources at least in the short-term.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had caught on to this challenge early during the preparations for elections to the three Hindi heartland states and activated all his general secretaries to evolve means and measures of keeping workers loyal to the party without having to bring financial considerations to bear in their commitment.
The results to those elections show the Congress succeeded in considerable measure. For towards the last weeks, I am told by one general secretary in the know that the BJP was allegedly desperately persuading Congress workers to simply stay away from the polling booths rather than attempting to buy their votes during elections.
If Pawar has been really taken for a ride by his own corporators, he needs to take lessons from Rahul Gandhi on how to keep partymen loyal in these days of greed and graft. Else, he and his party are likely to be reduced to political ciphers before long.
First Published: Jan 02, 2019 00:42 IST