Such is the fear of BJP, that the Presidential Candidate of “United” Opposition backed out without even contesting

Sharad Pawar Presidential Candidate

A user on Quora notes that the total assets filed by this man before the election commission in 2014 were to the tune of Rs. 32 crores. In 2009, the same man held assets worth Rs. 2 crores. In a matter of 5 years, the value of his assets jumped by 16 times. Assets held by him and his clan were worth Rs. 183 crores in 2014, increasing by nearly 200% since 2009. In 2009, this individual was accused of tweaking the government wheat procurement system to create artificial shortages in the market, necessitating import of wheat. Opposition parties alleged that the individual made no less than 1400 crores in the scam that was engineered. Between 2004 and 2006, this man, along with his extended family was found to have influenced allocation of prime agricultural land. It is estimated that the scam was worth at least Rs. 5000 crores. As a senior minister in the Central government, he exported and imported sugar simultaneously, making money on differential rates. He dabbled in IPL, buying stake in multiple teams and further enriched himself. The list of his scams would put even Laloo Prasad Yadav to shame. And yet, his writ runs large in large parts of his home state. Humbled recently by a resurgent BJP at both national & state level, he has for last 3 years or so, stayed away from the limelight. And yet, the litany of his scams did not stop Congress President, Sonia Gandhi from approaching him to be the United Opposition’s Presidential candidate for the upcoming polls. Thankfully, Sharad Pawar declined the offer.

The attempt to make Sharad Pawar, who has a lot of friends cutting across the political divide, but is generally distrusted by the Public, United Opposition’s Presidential candidate, reflects poorly on Madame Gandhi.

Desperation is beginning to show in Opposition’s camp as they try to come up with a candidate that would unsettle the BJP & the NDA. While Sharad Pawar has many friends in the BJP and NDA, the shrewd politician that he is, he can clearly see the writing on the wall. He realizes better than anyone else that Opposition’s efforts would be a non-starter given NDA’s overwhelming majority. Also, the current names doing the rounds as NDA’s Presidential candidates- Sumitra Mahajan, Draupadi Murmu, Venkaiah Naidu etc., would enjoy support cutting across party lines, thereby further denting Opposition’s chances. Sharad Pawar would not stand for a contest where he is destined to lose. Hence, he declined Sonia Gandhi’s request to stand as the Opposition’s candidate.

Sharad Pawar and the Congress under Gandhis share a complicated history. Ever his own man, Sharad Pawar has long disdained the high command culture in Congress party. He walked out of the Congress first in 1978, sensing that Indira Gandhi’s days were numbered, returning in the aftermath of her assassination, realizing that Opposition would drown in a pro-Indira wave. As Sharad Pawar noted in his autobiography, the Prime Minister’s chair was within his reach in ’91, when Gandhi family advisors chose a supposedly more malleable PV Narasimha Rao over an independently minded Sharad Pawar. Eventually, he quit Congress, ostensibly over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins issue, but the real reason was his unwillingness to submit to another Gandhi. That having been said, Sharad Pawar was shrewd enough to stay allied the Congress in the absence of a credible and sustainable alternative. In some ways, Sharad Pawar is the quintessential Congress politician, except that he refuses to submit to the High Command. That having been said, Sharad Pawar is also wise enough to see through Sonia’s devious designs. By setting up Sharad Pawar as a Presidential candidate, she is setting him up for failure and perhaps an exile into the political wilderness. Sharad Pawar is way too smart to fall for such childish schemes.

It is unlikely that Opposition would be able to come up with a candidate that can take the winds out of Modi’s sails. Those who are wise always fight battles that can be won. For the opposition, this is a battle that they would do well to avoid.