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Should Pawar Replace Sonia As UPA Boss?


An interesting debate has raised its head this week. According to media reports, the anti-BJP camp is debating whether Sonia Gandhi can be replaced by Sharad Pawar as the chairperson of the UPA. With equally interesting ease, the Shiv Sena, which is running the government in Maharashtra with Pawar’s party and the Congress too has endorsed his candidature. Pawar has outright rejected the proposal, but the debate goes on.

There are three reasons why this debate is important.

One, Sonia Gandhi is ill, and should not be burdened with the extra pressure of running the UPA.

Two, even before her illness, she had lost her touch of keeping allies in good humour and leading a coalition.

Three, she is no longer decisive as she was known to be. Maybe she has slowed down due to age and illness, but the UPA definitely needs a more dynamic leader to prove itself as a coalition of opposition parties to keep the Modi government on its toes.

But is Sharad Pawar the answer? Three reasons can be cited for those who believe that’s correct.

One, the 80-year-old has the stature to lead the coalition. Apart from Parkash Singh Badal, he is the only leader who has vast experience, having run enough governments and done and seen enough politics to claim that space. If the Thackeray government is running smoothly today, credit should be given to Pawar – he was the architect of the coalition.

Two, like an old-fashioned politician, Pawar has friends in every party. He is the most networked politician in the country.  Even Modi has publicly called him his political guru (how much this is to be believed is another matter). He can pick up the phone and talk to any leader in the country and is on first-name basis with all of them. This is a huge thing in today’s polarised atmosphere.

Three, being based in Mumbai, he can get enough resources for politics, his friendship with big business houses is legendary. Today, the BJP has unimaginable resources to discredit and destroy opposition parties. I am aware that it is impossible to match the BJP on this front, but to put up a good fight, one needs sizeable resources, which Pawar can organize.

But counter-arguments can also be floated. Three equally strong reasons can be articulated for why he is not the right person to lead the coalition.

First, his eminence is unchallenged, but his credibility is suspect. Pawar has a history of deserting his party and leaders. In 1978, he backstabbed his mentor Vasant Dada Patil, broke the party and formed his government. He became the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was only 38 then. Pawar finally rejoined the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-80s, only to break it again in 1998 when he rebelled against Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origin. But in 2004, he was again happy to work with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh and became Agriculture Minister.

Second, ideologically, he is not very solid. Sharad Pawar, in true Machiavellian sense, believes in power politics. For the sake of power, he is willing to make any compromise. In 1978, he was happy to take the support of the Janata Party to become Chief Minister. And to keep his party strong in Maharashtra, he allied with the same Sonia Gandhi against whom he had rebelled, and accepted being the junior partner in the government in 1999.

Courtesy – NDTV

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