NCP chief Sharad Pawar admits that his party is not prepared to contest the Maharashtra Assembly elections on its own. In a candid interaction, the former Union Agriculture Minister talks to Kiran Tare about his plans and views on his political opponents.
How confident you are about your party’s performance in the election?
I think people will give us a favourable response. I don’t think the voters are confused because of the four-cornered contest. They will take the right decision in view of stability and vision of development.
Are you fully prepared for the election?
We were not prepared to contest alone like the Congress and BJP. We had demanded 144 seats from the Congress. The talks for seat-sharing can start from the highest point only, but we were ready to scale down between 125 and 130. It was not easy to decide all the candidates. There was no adequate time for holding rallies and transport campaign material to each constituency.
You called the RSS ‘people of half pants’. Why are you obsessed with them?
It is not an obsession. The RSS’ ideology is not acceptable to me. The Doordarshan telecast RSS speech live on Dussehra. If it had news value, why did the Vajpayee government not find news value in the speech? We need to think about RSS seriously after this election. As of now, I have concentrated on the election only.
The BJP says you are politicising Pakistani rangers’ firing in J&K.
There is a need to give more attention to some sectors. I have registered my objection in this regard. There is a need to boost the jawans’ confidence. I only wanted to say that we still don’t have a full time Defence Minister. I don’t want to politicise this topic, but at least appoint a full time Defence Minister.
How do you look at the BJP’s aggressive campaign?
The NDA government is implementing our policies. It is a question of marketing. Manmohan Singh used to take decisions, but never used to make comments about them. It is yet to be proved whether Narendra Modi takes decision or not, but one thing is sure, he makes comments about them. Traditionally, Indian Prime Ministers goes to the US every year and address people there. Modi too had gone there in his capacity as PM, not as a BJP leader. The BJP is using clips of his speech at Madison Square Garden in its campaign. It is misuse of power. The PM is an institution. Modi has lowered its dignity by levelling personalised attacks on his opponents.
How will you assess Modi’s performance?
We cannot do any assessment so early. He needs to fix his priorities.
The BJP is seeking votes in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s name. Do you think they will succeed?
There will be a reaction to that. In a standard VII text book, the Gujarat government, then ruled by Modi, had published wrong information that Konddev was Shivaji Maharaj’s grandfather. On one side they are seeking votes in his name and on other side they are teaching wrong history. Those who can’t discharge their duty to educate children should not seek votes in Shivaji Maharaj’s name.
H D Deve Gowda said he was serious about forming the third front and sought your help. Will you respond?
I have not met Deve Gowda for a long time. It is wrong to say that we never discussed the formation of the third front when we met in Delhi. But there is no such proposal as of now. If the proposal comes we will think on it seriouosly.
What is your stand on statehood to Vidarbha?
I think political parties should not take decisions on the issue. I remember when there was a need to decide whether Goa should be merged with Maharashtra or it should be a separate state. The Election Commission had conducted polling on this issue and 49.50 per cent of the people had voted in Maharashtra’s favour but 50.50 per cent had opposed it. As a result, Goa became a state. Similarly, the Election Commission should conduct polling in Vidarbha. We will honour the people’s verdict.
Your senior colleague Chhagan Bhujbal has suggested that you should become the CM. Are you ready?
I will not accept any position of power now. I have been in electoral politics for 48 years. In the next two years, I will be 75 years old. I have decided to stop here. I will look into the party’s organisation and will remain as a MP.