PrezPolls: Pawar’s problems

Hours before the meeting on Thursday to decide on their joint Presidential candidate, NCP chief Sharad Pawar gave some jitters to the Opposition camp as he wanted a postponement of the announcement by a day.

As Pawar appeared to play hard-ball, Congress first rushed their trouble-shooters Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad in the morning to know his mind, address his concerns and convince him about the need for a joint candidate.

Sources said Pawar wanted either former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde or academician and former Rajya Sabha MP Balachandra Mungekar as candidate due to their Maharashtra roots, though he was not averse to Meira Kumar’s name.

He was also against the hurry in announcing the name and said one could wait for another 24 hours and declare the name with more deliberations.

But the JD(U) experience in mind, the Congress leaders did not want a risk but Pawar remained adamant. Patel and Azad then dialled CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury in the afternoon asking him to join the deliberations at Pawar’s residence here.

The three leaders then reasoned with Pawar on the need for speedy disposal of the agenda. Pawar told them that more than 60% of the votes have gone to the ruling side and asked what is the need to hurry.

However, the leaders said that any delay would be politically suicidal. Sources said Pawar might have wanted a delay in announcement as he did not want to jeopardise the outcome of a meeting farmers’ unions are having with BJP-ruled Maharashtra government.

One of the leaders reasoned that he should not worry about the outcome and he could easily target the government if they do not address farmers’ concerns.

The leaders told Pawar that the Presidential election is a pointer towards 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Some opposition leaders also indicated to Pawar that with Nitish Kumar’s decision, there would less competition for NCP chief to emerge as a potential face of opposition unity.

With NCP having some reservations on B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, CPI(M) also did not press his name.

Pawar did raise the need for postponing the decision at the Opposition parties’ meeting but parties across the board suggested the need for a speedy decision. RJD’s Lalu Prasad set the tone as he expressed fear that some among them could leave to support the NDA candidate like JD(U).

This led to some lighter moments when one of the leaders asked who was on Prasad’s radar. In a lighter retort, Prasad said he knew that there are mischief makers in the room.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 23, 2017)

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