Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sharad Pawar can be number 2 only if he merges the NCP with the Congress….

There is reason for Sharad Pawar to feel hurt that he hasn’t been called the official number 2 in the UPA. He is the strongest leader in the UPA after Pranab Mukherjee’s departure. His vintage may be the same as AK Antony’s, but in political terms, Sharad Pawar is a much bigger heavyweight. Rather than Antony, it should have been Pawar as the number 2. But Pawar is officially only an “ally” and it is understandable why the Congress chose Antony over Pawar. Rather than debating who the more senior and deserving of the two is for being the number 2, it would be better to question why the NCP cannot merge with the Congress.

The NCP was set up when Pawar, Sangma and Tariq Anwar were sacked by the Congress for protesting Sonia Gandhi’s right to become PM of India given her Italian roots. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Sonia refused to become PM even when she had the chance in 2004 and even though the Supreme Court had cleared her for the post. Even Sharad Pawar has forgotten the issue. If he hadn’t, why would the NCP have become such a strong ally of the Congress? The NCP has been an ally almost since the time the party got created. If Pawar has no problems working this closely with Sonia, and if Sonia has already turned down the opportunity to be PM, what reason exists for the NCP to remain a separate party? The political agendas of the two parties remain very similar and the two even run the same government in Maharashtra.

What was once a shrewd political move of Pawar’s has now become a bottleneck for his further political progress. In the beginning, Pawar was able to punch above his weight by being an ally rather than a mere party member. The NCP managed to get two cabinet ministers and two other ministers into the UPA – 4 ministers out of just 9. In contrast, the TMC has 19 MPs and the DMK 18, but both parties have only 1 cabinet minister each in the UPA.

But now, the NCP is becoming a limitation for Pawar. As an ally, Pawar can never expect to be one of the big four ministers – Finance, Defence, Home and External Affairs. Even in UPA-1, when the Congress had far few seats (141 compared to 206 now), the top four were taken by the Congress. It’s only during the NDA that the JD (U)’s George Fernandes was made Defence Minister – but that was because the BJP was even smaller in size – it had just 116 members. Pawar is beyond the state of Maharashtra now; if he has to make any further mark, it has to be at the center. Why doesn’t he just merge his party with the Congress and become the number 2? That too when he reportedly shares an excellent relationship with both Sonia and Manmohan Singh?

There is really no reason for Antony to be the number 2 if the option of Pawar was available to the Congress. When we compare the two leaders, there is a remarkable similarity between the career graphs of the two. Antony and Pawar are both 72 years of age; Pawar senior by just 16 days! Antony came to the Center in 1985 while Pawar came a year earlier in 1984. Both have been CMs of their respective states, though Maharashtra has to be considered far bigger and politically much more important than Kerala. Curiously, both have been CMs for 3 terms each. And even more curiously, both have ruled for short periods only – 6 years in Antony’s case and 7 odd in Pawar’s. Antony is the present Defence Minister, while Pawar has been the defence minister in the past. Here’s another eerie similarity. Both have left the Congress at some time to set up their own outfits. Only….Antony merged his unit back into the parent party early on. Pawar still needs to do that…..

There really is nothing to choose between the two. And yet, politically, Pawar is far more important. The only thing that limits Pawar now is his separate party. As soon as he corrects this, he can rightfully claim to be the number 2.

The real truth is that there is no raison d’etre left for the NCP to exist. Of its two founders other than Pawar, Sangma has left to contest the Presidential polls and Tariq Anwar is really a nobody (just a RS member). Sonia’s foreign origins are no longer an issue. The NCP is an anachronistic anomaly and the sooner that is corrected, the better it will be for Pawar…..

1 comment:

  1. Real truth is its time for retirement.