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Sharad Pawar: 'Modi is a loner'

May 13, 2019 09:56 IST

'We know each other for quite some time.'
'He could provide stability to the country for five years.'
'But he could not provide confidence to the countrymen that he is our leader.'

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar at an event in Baramati with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in 2015. Photograph: PTI

Sharad Pawar has through his political career been a man for all seasons.

He has probably weathered every kind of contingency in politics. And any kind of political foe.

You imagine there has been no situation in politics that he was not able to handle with his trademark implacable calm and customary resourcefulness that he is known for.

But when Pawar talks about India's present prime minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi, you sense a certain outrage, which it seems is unusual for Pawar.

In his interview to Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com the astute leader stresses the dangers to the State if a leader like Modi were to continue.

A few days before he had told The Hindu, 'I have not seen a person occupying the PMO campaigning in such a manner. I remember the speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and others. They always maintained the sanctity and dignity of the institution. But this gentleman has no qualms about it and can go down to any level possible for political gains'.

'...I have realised the danger of Modi's continuation. I feel it is my duty to create new leadership to protect interests of the State.'

After that, Pawar told the Economic Times: 'However Modi acts as if most sections who don't subscribe to his views are enemies and have nothing to do with India. This is wrong. No PM has taken such an approach. I have heard Nehru's speeches when I was young. He never attacked anyone like this. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not do it'.

'He is vindictive to rivals. He has been using the whole government machinery to attack the Opposition. This has never happened in Indian history. People understand this gentleman's vindictive nature.'

In the concluding part of his interview with Rediff.com, Pawar explains why he feels Hindu nationalism will not work for India, the youth's disillusionment with this government and what he considers development politics to be, which is not "Mr Modi's approach."

 

As you said, Modi came to power talking development, development. Now he is saying something else. As a critic, what do you think have been his achievements?

He could provide stability to the country for five years. As a prime minster.

But he could not provide a confidence to the countrymen that he is our leader.

Generally, people are thinking that he is a person who got respect from certain sections of society.

Not from the country as a whole.

When you meet him, one to one, what do you think of him?

We know each other for quite some time.

Ten years he was the chief minister.

I was the agriculture minister in the Government of India.

The agriculture minister, particularly this ministry, is such that he has no work except finalising policy in Delhi.

Real agriculture work is in the fields.

For the sake of that, we have to extend efforts with the states, irrespective of the party, If you have to improve agricultural production and the productivity of the crops you have to (liaise with) the farming community, agriculture universities, agricultural scientists and the respective state governments.

So I was keeping contact with everybody, that included Mr Modi also.

He cooperated with me, that time, to improve our programmes.

Like that we met on many occasions.

We went out of India also together.

I was the first to go to Israel with an official delegation and I thought I should also take some of the chief ministers.

So three or four chief ministers I have associated with. One of them was Mr Modi.

Is he a likable man?

Basically (pauses) I don't know. I think he is a loner.

Is he a hard man to read? One doesn't really get to know who he is?

I don't know. That was not my experience. I have known him for quite long.

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Is there any chance that the NCP will merge with the Congress?

No. No question.

You are sort of the Bhishma Pitah of politics. What do you predict for India ahead in this elections?

This time, I do feel the BJP will be out of power.

The non-BJP parties will come together and finalise a minimum common programme.

They will elect their leader and they will give stable government to the country.

IMAGE: Sonia Gandhi, then Congress president, with Sharad Pawar at an election rally in 2009 in Sakoli near Nagpur. Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters

I asked your daughter Supriya Sule this question when I met her in Baramati, but she really didn't give me much of an answer. Let me ask you the question. What do leaders like your daughter have over leaders like Mr Modi?

We are continuously associated with the masses.

Secondly, we are active, we are effective. And people have seen that for many years.

That's why we are successfully trying to project our own thinking, our own programme and exposing Mr Modi's approach, Mr Modi's programme.

And I think we are gaining for that.

Connecting directly with the people on issues?

On issues with the public at large.

Baramati, on first look, seems to be doing well. Everyone there says it is prospering. What keeps other areas of India back?

There many areas like Baramati in India. Particularly in Maharashtra.

You see our total approach is: We believe in a development-oriented party.

I always like try to tell my younger generation, who are associated with me in my party, that our total efforts in the party is 80 per cent development and 20 per cent party.

So it is alright, election time, concentration is on elections.

But the rest of the four or five years, we will just concentrate on development, development, development.

That might be in the area of education, that might be in the area of industry, that might be in the area of agriculture.

There are many fields where there is a potential and we shall build these areas ultimately in state and country.

You said the NCP would not merge with the Congress. Why do you say that?

Because we don't want to.

We want to keep our separate identity. Why should we forsake the party when we have set up the party?

We are keeping good relations with the Congress.

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar votes in Mumbai on April 29 along with his son-in- law Sadanand Sule and granddaughter Revati Sule. Photograph: Sharad Pawar/Facebook

What do you think is the future of family-owned parties?

I don't think any of these parties are family-owned parties.

It is possible that certain leaders might be effectively working in that party, that's why they are enjoying the support of their own colleagues.

The party is not owned by them.

Whether it is the Shiv Sena, NCP or other parties, there might be some party leaders coming from their family, but ultimately a party is not owned by family members.

Lakhs and lakhs of workers are working night and day and that's why an organisation is (viable).

That's why I don't believe and accept (calling) these family-owned parties.

It is a physical party.

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar, then Union agriculture minister, addresses a news conference in Kolkata in 2005. Photograph: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

Do you think the upper castes are with the BJP?

You see if you study the BJP base, it looks like the BJP enjoys support from certain sections, which are known as the upper castes.

What is the reason? Are they charmed by the idea of Hindutva? Why are these upper castes with the BJP?

That's because they have been consistently working, for years together, in the name of religion, in the name of -- may not be saying caste, but in their heart caste is also there.

And they always try to project and protect that section of the society.

To the people who believe in this idea of Hindutva-based India or a Hindu Rashtra or a nationalist India, what do you say to them?

I don't think it is good for the nation.

IMAGE: Celebrations for Sharad Pawar's 75th birthday in December 2015. Photograph: Sharad Pawar/Facebook

Why do you say that?

Ultimately, India is a country where multi-linguistic people are there, multi-religious people are there, there are many sects.

The specialty of India is that we are together.

We are one. And unless and until we keep that spirit, I don't think the country can succeed in the process of development and change the living standard of every common man.

That's why the country has to be as one country, irrespective of caste, community, religion, language.

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar at a rally in rural Maharashtra. Photograph: @PawarSpeaks/Twitter

In the course of campaigning for this election, wherever you have travelled, wherever you have addressed meetings, is there any new emotion that you are picking up? New feedback?

The only thing new I am observing is that the younger generation, they are more serious.

But the method of electioneering and campaigning is changing.

Previously we were pasting posters, boards and other publicity material.

Day by day the (method of using) publicity will essentially go.

And public meetings and interacting directly with the masses, WhatsApp and messages (is the new technique).

The old technique of electioneering is gradually disappearing.

The new technique is taking over in this country. It's a good sign.

IMAGE: Sharad Pawar and Congress national President Rahul Gandhi address a rally for the first time in Maharashtra in 2019. Photograph: PTI

There is a lot of anxiety about jobs. What does India need to do about jobs? During your campaigning have you picked up this anxiety about jobs?

This government has not taken any effective steps for creating jobs.

And the unemployment rates are growing, that even the Government of India reports say.

In that situation, any government has to give a thrust -- along with a thrust to agriculture and industry also.

The thrust of industrialisation should be industrial growth in a decentralised manner. They have to create a new situation that can solve the problem of unemployment.

The younger generation is frustrated.

They are not getting any opportunities.

The present government is not giving a thrust to industrialisation.

Any government, who wants to do something for the nation, they have to improve the investment climate.

And for the sake of investment climate and opportunities, full extra efforts have to be made towards industrialisation and development.

Unfortunately, Mr Modi and in Maharashtra, the BJP government has not taken that approach.

VAIHAYASI PANDE DANIEL / Rediff.com
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