Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar on April 3 said he won’t lead an anti-BJP front and is also not keen to become the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Speaking to reporters in Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, Mr. Pawar also said that the Congress cannot be excluded from any initiative aimed at providing an alternative to the BJP at the Centre.
“I am not going to take up any responsibility to lead any front comprising various parties against the BJP,” he said.
In the same breath, Mr. Pawar also said that he won’t lead the UPA, currently helmed by the Congress.
“Recently, some youth workers of our party [NCP] passed a resolution asking me to become the chairperson of the UPA. But I am not at all interested in that position. I am not going to get into that. I will not take up that responsibility,” the former Union Minister said when asked about his stand if he is asked to lead the anti-BJP bloc.
If an attempt is made to provide an alternative [to the BJP], I am ready to co-operate, support and strengthen such bloc,”” Mr. Pawar said, adding “we have been doing it”.
“When it is said that the Opposition should come together then some facts need not be neglected. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC is the strongest party in West Bengal and they enjoy people’s support. At the same time, regional parties are also strong in their respective states,” Mr. Pawar said.
He said the Congress has a pan-India presence even though the grand old party is not in power currently.
“You will find Congress workers in every village, district and State in the country. Reality is that the Congress, which has a wide presence, must be taken on board while providing an alternative [to BJP],” the NCP chief said.
Queried on BJP leader Nitin Gadkari’s statement that the Congress needs to be strong, Mr. Pawar underlined the need for a strong Opposition party for a healthy democracy.
“If only one party is strong then it will become like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He and the Chinese President have resolved to lead their countries till they are alive. I hope India should not have such Putin,” he said.
Taking a dig at the BJP-led Central Government, Mr. Pawar said that allegations were raised that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is used for extorting money.
“Before and after raids [are conducted] there are talks about settlements [with ED officials]. If this is true and the Government is not reining the agency, then the Centre should answer if anyone asks whether they are involved in corruption,” Mr. Pawar added.
He said inflation is a major issue in the country.
He said prices of fuel are being raised every other day under the BJP rule, which is not only affecting the common people’s finances but also contributing to the price rise and the higher cost of transport.
“I am not saying that fuel prices were not hiked in the past but now they are being increased every day. This is a major issue but the government is looking the other way,” Mr. Pawar alleged.
Speaking about “The Kashmir Files”, Mr. Pawar said the movie is made in such a way that the people of other religions will become angry.
He reiterated that V.P. Singh’s Government, and not the Congress, was in power at the Centre during the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.
“Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had become the Home Minister of India at that time with the support of BJP. A section inclined towards Pakistan then started attacking Muslims who wanted to stay with India and also Hindus. It was the responsibility of the then ruling party to protect these people. But instead of protecting them, they asked Hindus to leave the Valley,” Mr. Pawar claimed.
He said the film was not based on facts but it will promote racism and hatred.
“If such film is promoted by the head of the nation and his party started distributing free tickets, this only means that they want to divide people and derive a political mileage,” Mr. Pawar said.
He said the situation in Gujarat was worse than in the Valley [during the post-Godhra communal riots in 2002].
“Many people lost their lives but I never heard the then head of Gujarat coming forward to explain,” Mr. Pawar said in a veiled swipe at Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots.
Talking about Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha (SSP), Mr. Pawar said no party should walk out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
“If they [SSP] have any misunderstanding then it’s our responsibility to clear their doubts,” he added.