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Pawar PM projection is part of NCP strategy

Saturday, November 11, 2017
By Prakash Bal Joshi

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar has not kept his ambition of occupying the office of Prime Minister of the country a secret and the question has been hounding him ever since he threw his hat in the ring when P.V. Narsimha Rao was elected to the post by the Congress Party.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was set up by Pawar after he was out of the Congress over the issue of foreign origin of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Though the party failed to have any substantial base outside Maharashtra, the party has always been projecting him as a possible candidate for the PM’s post in case there is a fractured mandate by voters.

Nothing much has changed for the party which is struggling to keep its base intact in Maharashtra with the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress trying to eat into its support base. Pawar recently held a two-day brain storming session with close aides and prominent party workers to take stock of the situation and fine tune party’s strategy for survival in hostile climate. Some of the NCP leaders are behind bar while few more are under cloud and active investigation by state agencies.

Is Praful Patel daydreaming?
Former aviation minister and close aide of Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel, stole the show by suggesting that in most fluid political atmosphere prevailing in the country, party boss Sharad Pawar can become Prime Minister of the country as the year 2019 is going to be very good for the party and Pawar. What he said clearly indicates that the party wants to keep a distance from the BJP though it was NCP which had extended outside support to the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra much before the entire results were out. Now, Patel says that the party will never join the NDA led by the BJP nor his party will join the BJP if the Shiv Sena walks out of the alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra. Pawar has good equations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had praised his administrative skills during his visit to Baramati. Patel now says that it was Modi who praised Pawar but Pawar on his own had never praised Modi or his policies like demonetisation or GST.

Is Patel day dreaming about Pawar becoming Prime Minister in 2019 or is it political situation which is demanding him to project Pawar as the next PM of the country? As things stand today, Pawar finds it really difficult to keep the flock together and survive the climate in the country. Pawar himself met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and later announced that he does not think the Shiv Sena will continue its alliance with the BJP. Pawar has been playing intriguing politics and keeping everyone guessing about his real moves as he shifts his political stands on his relationship with friends and foes alike.

Pawar who had extended unqualified outside support to the BJP government in Maharashtra has changed his position and now says that in case the Shiv Sena leaves the alliance, he would not be extending his support to the BJP government in the state to save the state from falling into political chaos.

Patel thinks that the Modi brand value has been discounted and now people are not happy with the demonetisation and GST issues which have affected the very economy of the country. There has also been talk in political circles of possibility of the NCP joining the NDA prior to the coming general elections. However, Patel has denied any such move. However, in fluid situation, the NCP is not going to take any hasty decision on future course of action, as results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections are crucial and will impact political realignments. The party is also talking in terms of possibility of a third front as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP, but there is no follow up and the talk of Pawar becoming next Prime Minister is only considered as a step to keep common party workers remain affiliated to the party and its leader.  In a bid to strengthen his argument over Pawar never joining the NDA, Patel has also drawn attention to the fact that in 1999 when Pawar had walked out of the Congress and contested the elections on his own, he had been offered to join the NDA when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had become Prime Minister of the country. He says that Pawar had rejected the offer even though several secular leaders like Farooq Abdullah, Mamata Banerjee Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik had joined the NDA then.

The NCP concluded that if the Congress wants to defeat the BJP in Gujarat, the party led by Rahul Gandhi must cooperate with the NCP. The party has not ignored the possibility of Lok Sabha and the state legislative assembly elections to be held together in Maharashtra in year 2019 making it even more difficult for the NCP to keep its flock together. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be the leading star of the NDA who would demand vote for Delhi as well as for Mumbai making it difficult for the regional parties difficult to retain their sway over voters.

NCP in search of new alliances The NCP is in search of new calculations and new political alliances and may not go either with the Congress or the BJP, but it may try to line up with regional forces to keep its base intact. Is there any possibility of the NCP joining hands with the Shiv Sena which has turned very bitter about the BJP rule in the state as well as in Delhi? It may be only solution for both the party’s survival in view of Modi wave which no one is in a position to say whether it has been reduced or become stronger over the years.  Pawar has accepted the fact that Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut had called on him at his residence and sought his guidance over their deteriorating relations with the BJP.  The party has also denied any possibility of any alliance with the Shiv Sena in coming elections and hinted that it may continue its relationship with the Congress. The NCP wants the Congress to take first initiative for regenerating relationship between two Congress Parties.

It seems that the Shiv Sena has reached s “no-return-point” in its relationship with the BJP. The Sena had published a booklet titled “Ghotalebaz BJP” which has not at all amused several BJP stalwarts. This has further strained their relationship with the BJP. Whether Sena will walk out will be decided only when the BJP inducts former Sena chief minister Narayan Rane. Rane after remaining in the Congress for a decade has now walked out of the Congress and set up his own outfit Maharashtra Swabhiman Party later joining BJP led Nationalist Democratic Alliance (NDA). With the long pending cabinet expansion by Chief Minister Devendra Phadnavis, he is likely to be inducted into Maharashtra cabinet. NCP is using Shiv Sena’s discomfiture with Rane’s move by extending hand of tacit support to Sena’s threat to walk out if Rane is admitted. NCP’s move is seen as a step to protect some of its stalwarts from action being contemplated.

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