» News » Pawar eyes Opposition top slot but Mamata won't allow it

Pawar eyes Opposition top slot but Mamata won't allow it

By R Rajagopalan
January 31, 2018 10:21 IST
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Banerjee feels that as long as Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, she should be the undisputed leader of a united front of opposition parties, reports R Rajagopalan.


IMAGE: From left, expelled JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI's D Raja, Patidar leader Hardik Patel and TMC's Dinesh Trivedi at a rally in Mumbai on January 26, 2018. NCP's Praful Patel is also seen in the background. Photograph: Mitesh Bhuvad/PTI Photo.

New Delhi's political circles are agog with speculation that the internal problems of the Bharatiya Janata Party will start surfacing as the Narendra Modi government enters its final year in office ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

It is also expected that public opinion about the government will start to change and the BJP wave will reach a saturation point, at least in the Hindi belt.

Many leaders feel that February onwards is the right time for the Opposition to consolidate and occupy the centre-stage.


The launch of 'Rashtra Manch' by disgruntled BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which was joined by another BJP dissident Shatrughan Sinha, and several other leaders of different parties has opened up new opportunities for the Opposition. 

Some within the BJP feel that party veteran L K Advani is behind Sinha taking a rebellious path.

However, even as its future is hazy, a united front of opposition parties already has a few claimants for its leadership.

Conversations with Communist Party of India's D Raja, Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel and T K Rangarajan of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, indicate that Sharad Pawar is the most prominent among these names.

But, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is not ready to accept Pawar as the leader of a united Opposition.

She feels that as long as Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, she should be the undisputed leader of a united front of opposition parties.

Banerjee claims that her Trinamool Congress will be the largest opposition party after the Congress in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, winning the maximum number of seats in West Bengal.

And, therefore, she is already negotiating for important positions within the united front, if it becomes a possibility.

Banerjee is also opposed to Sharad Yadav being given the responsibility of main coordinator of Opposition unity.

While Sharad Pawar feels that opposition parties should meet regularly till November 2018, Banerjee is of the view that they should not list out priorities right now.

Pawar also wants a common view on the idea of holding of simultaneous elections, triple talaq bill and the impeachment motion proposed by the CPI-M against the Chief Justice of India.

But Banerjee is clear that political parties should maintain distance from the judicial crisis so as not to divert the public attention from more immediate issues.

Plus, she is opposed to any impeachment motion against the CJI.

A meeting of opposition parties called by Pawar in New Delhi on Monday to discuss efforts to mobilise a secular front received a setback as the TMC stayed away, along with the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Although TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi had attended the Pawar-led 'Samvidhan Bachao Rally' in Mumbai earlier -- where the other three parties were absent -- he was not present at Monday's meeting. 

"There was no one from the DMK, TMC, Samajwadi Party and the BSP. It could be because many MPs are not in Delhi, even though Parliament is in session, because of the intervening holidays till February 1. Or maybe they were not properly informed about the meeting," said the NCP's Tariq Anwar.

But the TMC reportedly gave a miss to the meeting as, in a protocol slip, the NCP directly invited Trivedi, instead of sending an invitation to Mamata.

This is said to be the reason why Banerjee may not have allowed Trivedi to attend the meeting.  

Why did the DMK keep out?

Pawar had spoken to DMK working president M K Stalin, but the latter did not send any representative. Stalin could have easily deputed T K S Elangovan, who was in New Delhi, to attend the event, even if he did not want Kanimozi to be there.

But the DMK did not want to cross the line of informal understanding with Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Till the time Stalin meets Rahul to iron out certain issues between the two parties, he would not seriously involve himself in national politics.

Though, last year, Stalin wanted to be the focal point of a united opposition during the mega event at Karunanidhi's birthday in June, the situation has now changed.

The DMK feels left out in New Delhi's political spectrum.

Pawar has made it clear that his party wants to work with the Congress, while the Shiv Sena should contest the polls alone.

He has also underscored the need for arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party to bury their differences and come together.

However, Opposition unity is still a far cry, with meetings of leaders remaining largely inconclusive. They still have lots of differences among themselves, which is the fact of the matter, and this alone will prove to be the BJP's biggest strength in the days to come.

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R Rajagopalan in New Delhi