President of Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar in an exclusive interview with The Quint’s Sanjay Pugalia.

Key to 2019 is Regional Alternatives, Not a National Party: Pawar

With the ruling party already getting into overdrive mode for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah himself ensuring it’s allies stay close for the big battle, how prepared are the Opposition parties.

In an exclusive interview with The Quint’s Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar gives us insights into pre-poll alliances between the Congress and the regional players. Commenting on the possibility of an alternative regional leadership in India, Pawar said that the Congress must accept on-ground realities in order to bring a change of leadership in New Delhi.

‘BJP’s Graph is Nosediving’

When asked about the Prime Minister’s recent claim that the BJP will win 2019 polls with a bigger mandate than last time, the Rajya Sabha MP said that such statements are required to motivate the party’s cadre.

BJP’s graph is nosediving across India and such statements are given to motivate the workers. Narendra Modi is a smart politician but I will not pay much heed to his claims.
Sharad Pawar, NCP

Pawar cited the recent bypoll defeats of BJP to solidify his point.

It’s one thing if BJP loses in states like West Bengal, but losing in Uttar Pradesh in the chief minister and deputy chief minister’s constituency is a clear indication of a slump.

‘BSP Could be Game Changer in Maharashtra’

The former Union minister stated that Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Ambedkarites could be the game changers in Maharashtra.

For Ambedkarites, the elephant is figurative, since it was the symbol of Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s party. Now, they associate it with Mayawati whose party symbol is also an elephant... If the Congress-NCP form an alliance with BSP in Maharashtra, it could do wonders. 

When asked about tprobable seat-sharing ratio if this alliance takes place, Pawar said the numbers will be finalised once all three parties are on the same page.

Taking shots at their rivals in Maharashtra, Pawar said the Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, regularly lambasts Amit Shah’s party in their publication and have ruled out possibilities of future coalitions.

The Alliances in MP, Rajasthan and UP’s Role in 2019

According to Sharad Pawar, the Congress will have to understand the ground realities after assessing the situation.

In Tamil Nadu, the primary seats will have to be given to DMK. Similarly, for Deve Gowda in Karnataka and NCP in Maharashtra. Whereas, the Congress can be the primary face in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.
Sharad Pawar, President, NCP

Citing example of the elections in 1977 after the Emergency, the former Maharashtra CM said that despite no single leader matching the might of Indira Gandhi, she lost.

Stressing on the need to give ‘alternative’ leaders at state level, Pawar said a similar show can be repeated in 2019. He added that Uttar Pradesh will play a big role in deciding who gets to be at Centre.

Akhilesh and Mayawati are a force, there’s no denying that. For the larger national interest, Congress and Ajit Singh (Rashtriya Lok Dal chief) will give SP and BSP the position they deserve in Uttar Pradesh.

The NCP chief sums up his argument saying the national mood favouring the Congress is gradually shifting and Rahul Gandhi is getting a good response, so if the Opposition acts quick and sticks together, we can witness a turnover of power next year.