Scared of 2024, BJP plans to destroy state-level parties: Sharad Pawar

Pawar Sr. turns to his stronghold Nashik after a split in his party by his nephew, gets warm response from farmers

Sharad Pawar addresses a rally in Nashik on Saturday, July 8
Sharad Pawar addresses a rally in Nashik on Saturday, July 8

Kumar More

NCP president Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the Bharatiya Janata Party appears to have plans to destroy state-level parties and weaken the Opposition.

Days after his nephew Ajit Pawar and several other MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party rebelled against him and joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra, Pawar senior hit the road in an attempt to rally party workers behind him.

Speaking to reporters in Nashik city, he said he has seen politics of several former prime ministers who spoke (critically) about opposition parties, but never sought to silence the Opposition.

"It appears that the BJP has plans to destroy state-level parties. They have done this in different places. In electoral democracy, the opposition party is as important as the ruling party. But the BJP's policy is to weaken the Opposition," he said.

Nashik has always been dear to Sharad Pawar’s heart. It is wine country, full of farmers who support the NCP. This is where he started a pilot project to test if farmers could kick dependence on Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) and the government and take charge of their own lives by becoming entrepreneurs. After all, their grapes travel all over the world and they could well set up their own export businesses.

Farmers from here too have never let down Sharad Pawar. In 1980, when he began rebuilding his Congress (Socialist) that had been deserted by all but six legislators, he got maximum victories from the Nashik district.

Now, Nashik is considered a safe constituency for the NCP and after Chhagan Bhujbal lost two elections from elsewhere, Pawar had found for him the safe seat of Yeola within the district. Bhujbal was a legislator from Mazgaon in Mumbai when he quit the Shiv Sena in 1991, but could never win from the city again after he betrayed Bal Thackeray.

Pawar then found him the safe seat of Yeola, but with Bhujbal now having stabbed his second mentor in the back, Pawar seems as determined now as Thackeray was at that time to see that Bhujbal does not win another election from this constituency.

Pawar's first meeting after the split in his party was with Dalits, tribals and other backward classes (to which Bhujbal belongs) in Satara which was a resounding success. His second in Nashik saw a similar upsurge of farmers before whom Pawar folded his hands and begged forgiveness for choosing the wrong  candidate (Bhujbal) to represent them in the Legislature,

"I will not make this mistake again," Pawar avowed. Bhujbal now has his task cut out for him winning from here again.

But Pawar also took on former acolyte Praful Patel in no uncertain terms. Patel has been declaring often in the past week that the NCP has no legal standing as a political party. “Then how come you are making appointments in the name of my illegal party?” Pawar asked Patel, adding that it is not the legislators or the courts but the people who will decide which is the true NCP.

Talking about the issue of Praful Patel questioning the unity of the Opposition at the national level, Pawar said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not in power in 80 per cent of the country, so the BJP is afraid of the 2024 elections, and from that fear they have started a conspiracy to break opposition parties.

He said this practice is dangerous in terms of parliamentary democracy. He further said that 18 national-level party leaders were present at the meeting held in Patna last month.

“Although there were some proposals from each party, all were convinced that must unite. There were some differences of opinion in the meeting. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion. But everyone took a unanimous decision and now it has been decided to hold a meeting in Bengaluru on July 17 for the next strategy,” Pawar said.

He also added that there is no problem if someone wants to rethink their decision but there is no question of calling anyone back.

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