Sharad Pawar’s Power Game
The demands of NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar apparently look benign and are harmless to the ruling party. Whatever Mr Pawar has asked for is nothing more than a political requirement for the survival of his party, apart from his own prestige.
If his demands are acceded to, the power of the Congress either in the union government or elsewhere including the state of Maharashtra won’t get reduced. Among all the major partners of UPA, the NCP is the only party which has not given any headache or tried to bargain with the ruling Congress at any stage. The NCP has not even claimed to share the Chief Ministership of Maharashtra in the present regime or even in the previous one, when it won more assembly seats than the Congress.
The two major demands of NCP, i.e. asking for a more important ministry for the party Chief, Sharad Pawar, and the installing of Tariq Anwar as Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, have to be accepted if Congress wants to complete the second UPA tenure.
Going by any factor, whether it be the seniority, experience or the political weight, Pawar definitely stands at the top today after the demise of Arjun Singh, and the departure of Pranab Mukherjee from the political arena.
Secondly, if Congress accedes to the demands of NCP to leave the post of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha to Tariq Anwar it does not have much to lose. Anwar has been groomed in Congress culture and he was the ex-national president of Indian Youth Congress.
A confidante of Rajiv Gandhi, Anwar was virtually No 2 in the Congress party, during the time of Presidentship of Sitaram Kesri. There is hardly any chance for him to lean on the main opposition party that is BJP, specially for a person known for his integrity, who enjoys the image of a seasoned politician. If the Congress could go ahead with Hamid Ansari for Vice Presidentship, basically a promoter of left parties, there is no reason not to accept the demand of NCP.
It is a different matter that Tariq Anwar was the only CWC member, who in capacity of general secretary of the Congress party did not sign the proposal of replacing Sitaram Kesri by Sonia Gandhi as president of the party. Sonia Gandhi after becoming the president allowed him to continue as the general secretary as a gesture of goodwill. Allowing Tariq Anwar as the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha would add another feather to her cap of generosity.
The lethal steps taken by the Chief Minister Prithvi Raj Chauhan to annoy the Maratha satrap knowing fully well that the Maharashtra government cannot run even for a day without his support is beyond understanding. The NCP has been neck and neck with the Congress in assembly elections and Congress has not done any better in the local body elections.
If Congress does not agree for a bigger or a better position to Pawar in Union Ministry and the position of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha to Anwar, there is every likelihood for the NCP to part ways from UPA. In such a situation, though the Congress may not lose the number game, it would be kneeling before the much more demanding parties such as Trinamool Congress and DMK. It may also have to live on the mercy of supporting parties, i. e. BSP and SP, which time and again have proven unreliable, opportunist and would definitely prove malignant at any crucial stage.
Once the NCP withdraws the support, the TMC, which more than once has opposed the actions of Union Government on price rise, FDI, increase in railway fare etc, would not leave this opportunity to withdraw its support. In that case, the mid-term poll would be unavoidable.
By Dr Vijay Khaira