Pune: Former agricultural minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar said that the common people of India are more intelligent than all rulers put together. Pawar, along with MP Raju Shetti, MLA Kapil Patil, educationist Razia Patel and literateur Yashwant Manohar, were speaking at the launch of the book ‘We the change’, authored by senior journalist Sunjay Awate.
Pawar made the statement with reference to the current government’s alleged authoritarian tendencies, as mentioned by earlier speakers. He said, “Whenever power gets centralised, it gets corrupt. In 1975, when a similar thing had happened, it resulted in the emergency. People first complimented the efficiency and timeliness of bureaucracy for some time then the horrors of the period started coming to the front,” adding, “But Indira Gandhi herself took back the emergency and declared elections.”
“When she declared elections, there was a similar view amongst people that there is no alternative. But people voted her out of power anyway and a party was formed as an alternative,” Pawar said, adding, “People of this country are more intelligent than all rulers put together. Which is why, when Narendra Modi leaves the country for tours and our benches are surrounded by BJP MPs who ask what can be done when there is no alternative, I tell them about 1977.”
Pawar also spoke freely about Pakistan and the recent Bangladeshi immigrant issue. “I have been to Pakistan as the chief of the ICC. I was treated with respect and love there as a representative of India. The common people there have a certain warmth for Indian people. Those who shout ‘go to Pakistan’ to their opponents, understand neither India, nor Pakistan,” He said, adding, “Though India cannot bear the burden of 40 lakh Bangladeshis in Assam alone, we cannot leave them unprotected either. This issue needs to be solved by international cooperation.”
MP Raju Shetti, who was seen sharing the dais with his one-time opponent Pawar, was at his candid best. He said, “I did make a mistake by going with the BJP, even when people close to me warned me. But I have done penance for it. But I have to say that I was pushed to take that path by the adamant Congress then,” adding, “But when I had protested against Pawar in Baramati, Supriya Sule had come herself to enquire about my well being. If Pawar and Gandhi are in power, they can be pulled down, but if the current government repeats, we can’t say if the 2024 elections will happen.”
MLA Kapil Patil also criticised the government. He said, “When it comes to denying representation, earlier governments too have taken decisions that I find objectionable. Representation was denied on the basis of not having toilets or educational levels. This meant denying representation to the poor, when we have universal franchise,” adding, “But the current government is fascist and its fascism is not based on Mussolini or Hitler, but is inspired by Godse.”
Littérateur Yashwant Manohar, said, “The true battle today is of religion versus the constitution. If Ambedkar would not have been there, India would have been a Hindu religious country. But because of the constitution, the identity of ‘We the people’, came to be defined as the people who believe in the constitution,” adding, “Maharashtra too is losing its touch with the teachings of Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar. We fear if Maharashtra will be known by Manu now.”