NEW DELHI: Sources close to resourceful Maharashtra politician Sharad Pawar spread word this week that he might be taking over as the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), of which his party, the NCP, is a constituent. However, senior Congress leaders flatly denied that any such plan existed.
While what got transpired was that the present UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi does not want to continue and a strong leader like Sharad Pawar might be picked in her place by the Congress and its other allies like the DMK. “Pawar has very good equations with the leaders of the other Opposition parties on the one hand and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the other. So, he can be effective as the UPA chairperson, whose main job is to get these parties to unitedly act both inside Parliament and outside.
Sonia Gandhi is not in good health and is under treatment. She had already handed over the Congress leadership to her son, but he quit the post after the last LS polls due to the utter disaster the party faced in the polls. Sonia then agreed to take charge of the party as its interim chief. She also continued as the UPA chairperson, a powerful post equal to that of the Opposition Leader in parliament. However, she is in a mood to feel free and spend the rest of her life without any hassles or controversies.
Pawar was enemy number one for Sonia after he tried to raise a banner of revolt in the Congress party a short while after Sonia took over as party president. He said he would not accept as a foreigner as party chief or as Prime Minister. Not many in the Congress however sided with him, other than the former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar. They formed the NCP in 1999.
Most leaders in the Congress party have always been sycophants for the Nehru family, which ensured their survival. The NCP continues to have a clout in Maharashtra, where the Maratha belt strongly backs Pawar. Pawar as Union agriculture minister in the UPA government had protected the interests of farmers of western Maharashtra.
Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar and daughter Supriya Sule are the party’s frontline leaders. In the past over 20 years, this party and Pawar himself acquired a bad name for wholesale corruption. PM Modi himself, with full knowledge of what’s happening around, once called the NCP the Nationalist Corruption Party. Outside of the Pawar family, another leader who came upfront in the NCP, basked under Pawar’s glory and became Union minister was Praful Patel, who also has a tainted political record. So with Ajit Pawar too, who is now deputy CM in the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress ministry in Maharashtra in a repeat go in the state ministry.
With the tainted record that the 79-year-old Pawar and his party hold, senior Congressmen are aghast that such reports are being circulated vis-a-vis UPA chairman post. They also feel that if given a chance to be on the prowl around the Congress party, he will finish it for good. These Congress leaders spoke on condition of anonymity and said they did not want to speak more about this at this juncture as this talk has no basis whatsoever.
They are of the view that conceding the leadership of the UPA to an ally would be tantamount to suicide for the Congress party. They also say the Congress earned a bad name for corruption in the UPA periods mainly due to the shady roles played by ministers of constituent parties like the NCP and the DMK. IHN-NN
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