Sharad Pawar is tough to decipher. The shrewd old-style politician keeps all sides guessing. Just a day after he held a dinner meeting for MLAs from Maharashtra including some Congress ones, a few of whom are upset with their party, and with union minister Nitin Gadkari emerging as a surprise guest, Pawar had a half-hour meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament.
At a press conference, Pawar made two important points. One, he raised the issue of Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s property being attached by the Enforcement Directorate and “misuse” of the ED and Central Bureau of Investigation by the Centre to target the BJP’s political opponents.”
Second, making it clear that he doesn’t want to be United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s chairperson in place of Sonia Gandhi, Pawar mentioned that he had received a letter from Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, asking him to speak to likeminded opposition leaders to form a front against the BJP for 2024.
Sources say that there is a plan cooking with Mamata, Pawar, and even Arvind Kejriwal taking the lead. Most agree that the Congress with poor organisation and electoral results can no longer lead any front. Also, the party has AAP and TMC as its opponents and therefore may not be open to doing business with them. It would be difficult for Sonia Gandhi to reach out to them anymore, especially with AAP eating into the Congress space in many states like Himachal, Gujarat, and Haryana.
A top Nationalist Congress Party source told News18.com, “It’s a matter of time before Rahul Gandhi takes over. If he does before Lok Sabha polls, I wonder how many would be keen to discuss the new coalition with him.”
The Congress, according to a top opposition leader, is a tried and failed force. Anyone from the Congress can no longer be seen as a winning opponent to Modi or an alternative. “2004 was different. Sonia emerged as a determined leader and she, being a woman and a senior one at that, did find acceptance. That may not be the case with the Gandhi siblings.”
Over the next few weeks, a structure is likely to be firmed up. Pawar will also speak to many other opposition leaders who till now are either reticent or reluctant. On the cards are Arvind Kejriwal, KCR, Jagan Mohan Reddy, and even Naveen Patnaik.
But it’s early days yet. Past attempts to cobble together a front to take on the BJP have met with little success. With many ambitions and egos, it may be tough for even Pawar to get everyone together. In the end, electoral success matters. And it’s here that the BJP continues to be the winning horse.
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