It’s possible that to counter the onslaught of the saffron aggression in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, both Congress and NCP will checkmate Narendra Modi by pitting Sharad Pawar as the chief ministerial candidate.
However, the Congress wants the NCP to merge first, and only then it will be ready to nominate Pawar. Sheela Bhatt reports.
History may turn full circle in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar, the tallest leader of the state, reading the Lok Sabha results correctly, may decide to go back to the Congress.
According to reliable political sources in Mumbai, the Congress party and the Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party are deliberating the pros and cons of a merger.
It’s possible that to counter the onslaught of the saffron aggression in the upcoming assembly elections, both the parties will checkmate Bharatiya Janata Party and its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by pitting Sharad Pawar as the chief ministerial candidate.
According to sources, this is one of the serious options being considered by the Congress.
Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.
The assembly elections in Maharashtra are due to be held by the end of this year, and the preliminary reports clearly indicate a strong performance by the BJP-Shiv Sena-led combine.
The western state is the most crucial for the survival of the Congress whose fortunes have sunk to the lowest depth in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha election.
The Congress wants the NCP to merge first, and only then it will be ready to nominate Sharad Pawar as the chief ministerial candidate, sources added.
The Maratha strongman’s re-entry, if at all that happens, will marginalise not only Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s position but will also upset other Congress leaders.
However, it will be a win-win situation for both the Congress and the NCP if Pawar agrees to sacrifice his party. Pawar's nod to re-join Congress will be a great psychological boost to the Congress and it will show that the grand old party is showing signs of revival.
Even the NCP is suffering from a credibility crisis and is plagued with many internal factions. Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule are known to have different approaches on issues. However, neither Pawar’s nephew Ajit nor Supriya are rising anywhere near to the NCP chief’s stature in Maharashtra politics.
An ageing and ailing Pawar is still a leader with substantial political weight in the state.
None of the party leaders who were contacted by Rediff.com were ready to confirm or deny the story on the record.
Image: NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi share the stage during a rally in Nagpur
Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters