By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2019-12-05 12:53:26
What is Sharad Pawar trying to achieve by disclosing that Prime Minister Modi asked him to work with the BJP in Maharashtra? And that he knew about Ajit Pawarâs negotiations with the party? And that Ajit went to the BJP as he was angered by the Congressâ behavior? Is he trying to kill many birds with one stone? Is he trying to position himself as a leader who has now become indispensible for the opposition?
The first âdisclosureâ allegedly happened in a closed-door meeting. It is quite possible that given his seniority and given the fractured position of the Maharashtra assembly, Modi could have asked Pawar to cooperate. We will not know what actually transpired till Modi or the BJP speaks up, which they havenât till now. It is also possible that Pawar is telling just one side of the story. He might have put too high a price for the cooperation and Modi might have rejected it. So he is now trying to adopt a high moral ground by saying he rejected Modiâs offer. After all, Pawar is a canny politician. He would have junked the Aghadi if the BJP had either made him an offer he could not have refused or if it had accepted his demands. Something cooked inside that room but who will tell the truth? Pawar might be trying to hide the bigger story by saying that an offer was made.
As for the âdisclosureâ that he knew Ajit was negotiating with the BJP, it just shows that even if Ajit did not have his blessings on that count, Sharad Pawar was keeping all options open. He wanted to find out through Ajit how desperate the BJP was to return to power and what it was offering the NCP. It is also possible that Modi made the offer to him because Ajit was negotiating at the local level. At the same time he kept on the negotiations with the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Alliance dharma demands that if a close confidante is supping with the enemy, the leader of the party must tell the alliance partners about it. But Pawar did not. He was obviously playing two formats of the game. Additionally, he is trying to put Congress on the back foot by hinting that Ajit went to the BJP as he was angered by the Congressâ heated arguments. He is telling the Congress that if it shows attitude, the NCP has other options.
Sharad Pawar is one of the canniest politicians in India. He has had the measure of most other politicians and knows how they think and behave. He also knows their strengths and weaknesses. But the reverse is not true. No other leader can make out what goes inside his mind or how he will react to a given situation. It is quite possible that although he is denying it, he had sent Ajit to the BJP himself just to keep the Shiv Sena and the Congress on tenterhooks and get a prominent position in the alliance. He is one of the most hard-nosed and tough negotiators around. It is because of his constant search for the best deal for his party that others view him as a fickle ally. But given the situation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena and the Congress have no other option but to accept Pawar as the magnet who can keep the alliance going. By making these âdisclosuresâ, Pawar has further let them know that he, too, has other options.