NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar is known to be one of the smartest politicians in the country. Even in times of crisis, he does not lose his cool – which arguably is his best trait as a political stalwart of the country who has no less than on three different occasions eyed the Prime Minister’s chair. On all such occasions, however, Pawar was denied India’s prime ministership. Due to his bad luck on that front, Pawar has come to be known as the “best Prime Minister India never had”. Despite having breached the 80-year-old mark last year, Sharadchandra Govindrao Pawar has not stopped eyeing the coveted chair and residence at the 7 Lok Kalyan Marg.
Congress (read Gandhi Family), the party he was with till the 90s, is the major roadblock in his Prime Ministerial ambitions. This time, Pawar is very shrewdly sidelining the Gandhi family which is at its lowest in the century-old history. Previously, upon the clarion call of Pawar, leaders of non-Congress parties and few intellectuals gathered at the NCP patriarch’s New Delhi residence yesterday and discussed the possibility of the ‘unattainable’. Although none of the leaders attending the meet openly talked about it to the media.
However, when later asked about a non-Congress alliance, Pawar said that no alternative is possible with the Congress party. Pawar has also invited senior Congress leaders, especially the members of the dissenting group of 23 leaders who want a non-Gandhi at the top post in the party, in the meeting.
After the meeting, senior NCP leader Majeed Menon said, “There are talks that the meeting was for a third front without the Congress, which is not the truth. There is no discrimination. We called all like-minded people. We also invited Congress leaders. I called Vivek Tanha, Manish Tiwari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shatrughan Sinha for the meeting. They couldn’t come. It’s not true that we didn’t invite Congress.”
So, the message is very clear – Pawar wants the help of Congress but of a Congress without Gandhis at the top. Sharad Pawar knows that unless the Gandhi family is at the top, his prime ministerial ambitions cannot be realized because the family sees its members as the natural successor for the post. The last time when Sharad Pawar was about to take over the Congress, thus becoming a Prime Minister candidate, Sonia Gandhi spoiled the show.
Therefore Pawar is playing very smartly this time and slowly sidelining the Gandhi family to ensure that there is no hurdle in him being the face of the opposition (which will include Congress without Gandhis) in the 2024 general election.
In 1991, three prime ministerial candidates’ names were doing the rounds. Sharad Pawar, back then, was in the Congress and had not formed the NCP. By then, Sharad Pawar had emerged as a regional stalwart and a decent national leader who knew more politics than everyone in the Congress combined. Pawar’s appetite for more power and his ambition to one day make Prime Minister was known to all. Such ambitions were also haunting the Gandhis, as Pawar was anything but a lackey of the family. He was free-spirited and daring and had earned the reputation of taking on the likes of Indira, Rajiv, and Sonia Gandhi.
Naturally, for a Sonia Gandhi-led Congress, Sharad Pawar making Prime Minister was a nonstarter. It made no sense to place someone not committed to the cause of the Gandhis on the Prime Minister’s chair. So, instead of Sharad Pawar, Sonia Gandhi started sending feelers to the Congress covertly – that her support was for PV Narasimha Rao. PVN Rao was a yes-man with no larger political ambitions. He could be manipulated by the party (read Gandhis) and not frown upon his autonomy and power being walked all over (it is a different story that Rao emerged to be completely opposite of what was thought of him).
In 1999 too Sonia Gandhi emerged as a roadblock to Pawar’s ambitions and ultimately he broke away from Nationalist Congress Party. Pawar has been outwitted by Sonia Gandhi two times and therefore this time first he is sideling the Gandhi family and then probably he will make his claim over the position of leader of opposition in the 2024 general election.