By Soroor Ahmed
With just nine MPs against 20 of Trinamool Congress the Nationalist Congress Party leader, Sharad Pawar, is perhaps trying to copy Mamata Banerjee. But if the Bengal chief minister had to, at last, take the painful decision of supporting the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee and fall in line, the big question is will the bargaining position of Sharad Pawar become strong by his latest action.
Yet thanks to media such rebellions by regional satraps are getting undue coverage. A news emerged on Thursday evening after the election for the post of President was concluded that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his party colleague in the Manmohan Ministry, Praful Patel, did not attend the cabinet meeting. Then reports started doing the rounds that they both have offered to quit. Then on Friday morning Pawar reportedly met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. This was followed by the statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that “We have been a strong and progressive ally of the UPA and we shall continue to be in alliance.”
Thus it started appearing that the differences have been sorted out, but late on Friday evening news started appearing that NCP may think in terms of extending outside support to the UPA, meaning thereby that both Pawar and Patel may quit.
Media is full of stories suggesting that Pawar is upset over what is called the elevation of Defence Minister A K Anthony to the second slot in the Union cabinet and over making Congress leader and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, also from Maharashtra, as the leader of the House in Lok Sabha after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee.
Besides, Pawar felt ignored by the Congress-led UPA that no consultation was made at the time of the appointment of governor of Maharashtra.
Sharad Pawar might have his points. No doubt he had been chief minister of Maharashtra thrice and served as the Defence Minister of the country two decades back. True he was a powerful politician in Narasimha Rao ministry.
But all that is history. In May 1999 he broke his rank with the Congress over the foreign origin issue of Sonia Gandhi and along with P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar formed Nationalist Congress Party. Recently Sangma too left the party to contest Presidential election. Ever since then Pawar failed to become the undisputed leader of Congress in Maharashtra.
Political observers are of the view that Pawar needs to bite as much as he can chew. If Mamata is playing pranks she at least have 20 MPs and is the major partner in Bengal. The Congress is playing second fiddle in that state. In Maharashtra the Congress has 82 MLAs against 62 of the alliance partner, the NCP, in the House of 288. Besides, Pawar has with him just nine MPs while Congress 17 in Maharashtra. Thus Pawar can not indulge in arm-twisting the way Mamata often does. Even in the case of Pranabda’s election Mamata had to relent to Congress.
What Pawar––as well as Mamata too––tend to forget is that Congress, with 206 seats in Lok Sabha, has over 20 times more MPs than NCP and over 10 times more than Trinamool Congress. These regional satraps have their own limitations.
If Mamata goes Mulayam Singh is there and if Sharad Pawar tries to flex his muscle the Congress is trying its level best to woo Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), which too has 20 MPs. The Congress has successfully managed to make the position of Pranabda strong and even managed to earn support of Bahujan Samaj Party and Shiv Sena.
So Pawar needs to know how powerful or otherwise he is in the alliance politics.