The NCP chief castigated BJP PM hopeful Narendra Modi over his 'presidential-style campaign'

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar feels there are grim portents for Indian democracy in “concentration of power” in the hands of BJP’s PM aspirant Narendra Modi as seen by the marginalisation of party veterans like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

In an interview to PTI, Mr. Pawar said he feels strongly about Mr. Modi “propagating” the slogan of a Congress-free India, which has left everybody “shaken”. He countered the BJP leader’s prediction that the Lok Sabha polls will herald the end of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, saying the family was a “symbolic representative of the unity of India”.

“Advani is the founder member of BJP, its former president. He wanted to contest from Bhopal but had to go back to Gandhinagar against his wish. Murli Manohar Joshi, also a former chief, wanted to contest from his old seat but had to shift. Jaswant Singh, an efficient foreign minister, good finance minister and Parliamentarian...Mr Modi decided to keep him away and he had to keep away and now he is contesting as an independent.

“I feel sorry about that. Modi wants to control his party. Of course it is his party and I cannot say anything but concentrated power always gets corrupt and it ultimately affects the common people.”

Mr. Pawar again likened Mr. Modi to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

“We have seen Hitler, he was elected from a democratic set up. He concentrated power in himself and the whole world has seen how he eliminated the Jews, attacked other people, misused authority. Today, the examples of Advani, Joshi and Singh are illustrative of how power has started concentrating in Modi’s hand. It’s just the beginning,” Mr. Pawar said.

"Anti-Congressism will boomerang"

The former Congressman said people do not like Mr. Modi’s idea of a Congress-free India and felt that it could boomerang on BJP’s PM hopeful.

“When Modi started his ‘Congress mukt’ mission, everybody was shaken. That hurt. People don’t like the idea of a Congress-free India. Our own thinking is what we learnt from Nehru, Gandhi and Gandhian thinking. Babasaheb Ambedkar provided us a Constitution which gave tremendous power to the common people. I don’t know why Modi raised this (slogan),” Mr. Pawar said.

Asked if it can boomerang on Mr. Modi and BJP, Mr. Pawar said, “I think so. When I go to villages and towns, people raise this issue.”

The NCP veteran also attacked Mr. Modi over his assertion that the Lok Sabha poll will mark the end of Nehru-Gandhi 'dynasty’.

“It is not the question of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, it is the question of Nehru-Gandhi ideology. It is symbolic representative of a particular Congress ideology, of the unity of this nation, of secularism of this country.

“I don’t think the glorious history of a country can be erased. Anybody can create history but nobody can destroy or eliminate the glorious history of a nation,” he said.

Contentious issues

Asked if Mr. Modi and BJP, having toned down their Hindutva rhetoric and talking of inclusive politics, would now be able to take all sections along, Mr. Pawar replied in the negative, saying once in power they will go back to contentious issues of Ram temple, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

“100 per cent. They have said about these things in their manifesto, may be not very prominently but at least something is there. Tomorrow, they can say, yes, we had told the people about our thinking,” he said.

On whether he expected Mr. Modi, regarded an able administrator and a decisive leader, to end the policy paralysis alleged to be plaguing the government at the Centre, Mr. Pawar said the BJP leader’s personalised style and data on development raised doubts about his being a competent administrator.

Data published by RBI shows performance in growth under every chief minister of Gujarat. “When Congress CMs Madhavsinh Solanki and Chimanbhai Patel were there, the growth rate was between 16 and 17.5 per cent. Modi took over, it came down to 9 per cent. What does it show? If he is such an efficient administrator, why growth rate has come down?”

“In the last three years, Maharashtra received foreign investments of Rs 1.42 lakh crore but total investment in Gujarat, in spite of Vibrant Gujarat Summits, was not even 20 per cent of what Maharashtra got. That itself shows what kind of an administrator he is,” Mr. Pawar said.

The NCP chief said Mr. Modi ran a “highly centralised” government in Gujarat which was also not an attribute of a good administrator.

“I don’t see the idea of decentralisation in Gujarat. Except for former Minister of State Amit Shah does anybody outside know the name of any Minister. Democracy is about team work. If everything is concentrated in one person, I don’t think it is good administration,” he said.

He also castigated Mr. Modi over the presidential-style campaign he has launched. “He asks people to vote for him. Abki baar Modi sarkaar. Nobody, neither Atal Bihari Vajpayee nor Indira Gandhi ever sought vote for themselves, they sought vote for their party. He wants to personalise everything.

“There is historical evidence that we have seen in many countries, including Germany which I have alluded to. In a country like India, we cannot surrender to one man, it has to be a team,” the NCP president said.

Poll surveys

Asked to comment on opinion polls suggesting that BJP and NDA had stolen a march over UPA, Mr. Pawar retorted, “Just see the 2004 opinion polls. Vajpayee was ruling for six years, there was feel good factor, India was shining, but results were different.

“After Emergency was lifted, people thronged our meetings but defeated us, they defeated even Mrs (Indira) Gandhi. When she apologised publicly for imposing Emergency and Janata Dal government was not performing, the same people gave us a clear-cut majority. People are smarter than us. People always think about the nation,” he said.