In modern day India, politics is now defined by events. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought in the culture of holding large political events such as road shows, stadium rallies and other public outreach methods, which resulted in a large scale opinion mobilisation. Many political parties have realised that they too need to adopt these methods and they are designing similar activities instead of holding only typical political rallies.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar’s interview by Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) Chief Raj Thackeray in Pune on Wednesday was one such event where thousands of people attended and millions all over Maharashtra watched live. Many were surprised to see Raj Thackeray calling himself only a ‘cartoonist’ in the event invitation card and even more surprised to watch Raj Thackeray’s stellar performance as an ‘interviewer’.
Most viewers, who are already used to Raj Thackeray’s speeches, sensed a refreshing change in his approach. He was sharp, fearless and articulate in his diction and asked some very intelligent questions. One got to watch a new side of this young leader.
Some perhaps thought that Raj getting into an interviewer’s role and questioning a senior leader like Sharad Pawar with a foreword mentioning that he admired many qualities of Sharad Pawar was an indication that Raj would perhaps be giving up his political ambitions in Maharashtra’s political space, as he would now not have scope in the future of targeting or criticising Sharad Pawar.
However, the bigger and more important observation one could very obviously see during this event was Sharad Pawar asserting in the conversation that in his mind, he is clear that he will stay with the Congress and there is no scope of him getting close to BJP led NDA. In the rapid fire round in the last phase of the interview, Pawar was asked his preferences. Would prefer to live in Maharashtra or Delhi, would prefer to side with farmers or investors and would go with Congress or BJP.
His sharp and clear reply was Congress. In the conversation itself, he was very clear about his disappointment with the present regime. And he very clearly said that though he thought PM Modi had great energy and was working hard, there was no way a country of the size of India can be managed efficiently without PM depending on a large team and also said that his opinion was that PM Modi was not at all a team person! Pawar also took the opportunity to highlight farmers’ distress in Maharashtra and how demonetisation had ruined rural sector.
A leader of the stature of Sharad Pawar saying all these things in a loud voice as millions watch him speaking on regional news television in Maharashtra is very significant. Nobody can deny that there is hardly any leader in Maharashtra today who has his ‘ear to the ground’ as much as Sharad Pawar has.
If Pawar chooses to say these things publicly, it means there is some change in the directions political winds are blowing in Maharashtra. The BJP must have taken note of the comments.
Raj Thackeray, who used to praise PM Modi a lot until three years ago, chose to openly display his disappointment about how governance is being handled now. In all, it was an interesting conversation and the BJP top brass should really take note of everything both these leaders spoke during the programme.