Sharad Pawar is at it again. Taking U-Turns! These days (since Modi’s advent), he is turning at such great speed, that if looked at from the top, he will resemble a fan, running full speed. Since Modi’s BJP became the dominant party, like most Secular-Socialist politicians, he is under tremendous pressure to protect his turf. On this occasion, it is Modi’s Agricultural reforms that have pushed him to the wall but also given an opportunity to grab the spotlight.
On 4th Dec, when protests against Farm Laws were at their peak, Sharad Pawar remarked that Rahul Gandhi seems to lack consistency and needs to be accepted by the country as a leader. Implying he has been rejected by people and hence cannot lead opposition at this moment. Commenting on Obama’s comment on Rahul, he questioned the propriety of a foreign leader commenting on India’s internal politics. But nowhere did he fault Obama on the merit of the comment. And he did not forget to add, that people have affection towards the Gandhi family. He did not stop here. He advised Rahul and Congress to stop attacking a person (Modi) and come up with an alternate governance model instead.
So, if that forced you to think he is supporting Modi, within 3 days, one day ahead of Bharat Band called by Farmer unions, he turned the heat on Modi. He quipped Government needs to take protests by farmers seriously and provide the resolution. Further, he added, BJP passed these laws without any debate in the parliament and hence must face the consequences. Importantly, he didn’t come even come close to saying that these farm laws should be repealed.
So what is Sharad Pawar trying to say? And to what end? Well, I have been saying this for a while now that he is trying to edge Congress out and lead a formation of third front parties that can challenge Modi. Hence consistent attempts to discredit Rahul Gandhi. Simultaneously, he is trying to create an image of himself that is distinct from Congress. But that faces a big hurdle. Because, though he has left Congress long back, even today he is identified with his old party. Mainly because he has been with Congress for very long, but also because his politics is not very different from that of Congress.
Hence, these attempts at creating an image of a leader who is Secular yet Nationalist. That’s why you see him supporting Modi once and then attacking him again within a fortnight. Please note, he attacks Modi on Ram Mandir (to please Muslims) but supports him on China (to please Nationalists). Against that, Congress keeps on attacking Modi for everything he does. You see the difference, right?
Coming to the current topic – Farm Bills. I have mentioned at the beginning that though Pawar is opposing Modi, he is not against the bills as such. You see, he knows, farming as a profession is not sustainable in existing form. With FCI godowns overflowing with Wheat and Paddy (2.5 times of current annual consumption), the Government can not keep on paying the Minimum Support Price (MSP). He knows it needs reforms. During his tenure as Agricultural Minister, he had written to this effect to then Delhi CM Sheila Dixit in 2010 and MP CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan in 2011.
He was clear then, that the agriculture sector needs well-functioning markets to drive growth, employment, and economic prosperity in rural areas of the country. He added, that this requires huge investments in marketing infrastructure including cold-chain. And for this, private sector participation is essential. Pawar had to run for cover when Shivraj Singh exposed his duplicitous politics in this video.
Pawar knows two things. One, that Modi is doing what is required. And, Modi is not going to repeal any of the freshly minted laws. This BJP just does not work like that. And that’s where he has sensed an opportunity. Opportunity to break the logjam and seize the leadership of the opposition. And that’s why he is in Delhi. No intention to bore you to death. But take a look at another Pawar video, after he met The President. He is consistently (a rare occasion) saying the same thing. Because there was no discussion, farmers have got angry. But not a word on taking the laws back.
So, what is that which Sharad Pawar is trying to do? By taking this conciliatory stand, he is trying to occupy that middle ground between BJP and Congress. Just like his stand on issues of National Security and Religion, here too, he is trying to create a new constituency for himself. Now, the thing is, Modi, owing to his larger than life image, and of course, BJP’s brute majority in the Parliament, cannot be seen taking a step back to break this tangle. That will send a wrong message. Congress is so low on credibility, that it won’t able to cut any ice with farmer unions. That’s where Pawar comes in.
He neither has the baggage of Congress nor like BJP a large Far Right, Middle-Class constituency to cater to. Contrary, his vote bank consists of Maratha-Kunbi farmers who want the MSP-APMC arrangement to continue. Post 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections, when he supported BJP, it became clear that he has no qualms making partnerships outside ideological realms. Then again, PM Modi visited Baramati and declared that Sharad Pawar is his political Guru. So it’s quite clear that if push comes to shove, both can work together.
Going by the way the number of meetings (6 rounds of negotiations and still counting) has taken place, it’s quite clear that Government is dealing with agitating farmers, with great patience . But, what it won’t do is repeal the laws. That said for how many days more it can allow Delhi to be held ransom by agitators? This is as embarrassing as anti-CAA protests. Even sensible Farmer leaders (not Khalistanis and Anti-CAA lobbyists) would like these protests to end successfully. They surely would like to go back to their followers and show something. And at this moment, Sharad Pawar has all the wherewithal to broker a deal between Government and agitating Farmer Unions. Now that, he is in Delhi, I am hoping a deal is in offing.
PS: As was about to complete this piece, a ‘NEWS’ was floated by an Ex-Maharashtrian Journalist, who now is a proud resident of Lutyens Delhi, that Sonia Gandhi may appoint Sharad Pawar as the Chairperson of UPA. Now, this is a bluff and there is no chance that this is going to happen. It’s quite clear at whose behest this pseudo Journalist is doing this. But the point mentioned at that top remains!