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Why Did Sharad Pawar Disagree with Congress & AAP on Adani & PM Modi's Degrees?

To those who understand Sharad Pawar's politics, his disagreement isn't surprising at all.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has contradicted the Opposition's on two key issues.

He has disagreed with the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe on the Adani issue and said that the Hindenburg report may have been motivated. The Congress has been aggressively targeting the government on this issue.

Then on Aam Aadmi Party's demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi show his educational degrees, Pawar asked whether this is even an issue in the first place.

Supporters of the Narendra Modi government, including in the media, have used it to allege disunity within the Opposition.

The Congress and AAP, too, haven't taken very kindly to Pawar's statements.

So what would be an accurate way of reading Pawar's statements?


1. Sharad Pawar Understands Corporate India Better Than Most

Pawar enjoys a good equation with several industrialists, including Gautam Adani. He has never stood for an adversarial relationship with corporates. Being an integral part of Mumbai's power circles for nearly half a century, Pawar placed himself in the area of intersection between politics, business and sports in a way no other politician could.

He has been and remains one of corporate India's most trusted politicians.

Therefore it is understandable that he's uncomfortable with the singling out of one important industrial house for political attacks.

There are two reasons for this. One may be, as elements within the Congress have alleged, due to his proximity to Adani.

But the second reason is more important - Pawar genuinely believes that going after one industrialist is bad politics for the Opposition and helps the BJP.

"As it is, BJP gets the lion's share of corporate funding. What will Opposition gain by targeting corporates and alienating them even further?" an NCP leader said, while speaking to The Quint.

Those close to Pawar say that the Congress' attacks on Adani are based on a flawed understanding of corporate India that if they attack Adani, they'll get the support of other corporate entities.

Even elements within the Congress have been warning that this may be a wrong assumption and that in reality corporates do tend to close ranks in such situations.

The other hope in the Congress is that this will help them get support of small traders. So far, this doesn't seem to be happening and this section seems to be voting on local factors. At least in the core BJP states, traders remain one of its strongest support bases.


2. Sharad Pawar is Clear About Which Issues the Opposition Needs to Focus On

Pawar's response to the questions around Prime Minister Narendra Modi's educational qualifications, makes it clear what he believes are the issues that matter and those that don't.

"Should anyone's educational degree be a political issue in the country when we are facing unemployment, law and order and inflation? Today, differences are being created among people in the name of religion and caste. Crops have been destroyed due to unseasonal rains in Maharashtra. Discussions are necessary on these issues."
Sharad Pawar

There may be some truth to this.

The Congress fought and won the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections last year focussing just on issues like jobs, price rise, Old Pension Scheme and apple-growers' woes.

The Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan fought a spirited campaign in the 2020 Bihar elections purely on the plank of unemployment and the RJD became the single largest party in the state.

Even presently, the BJP is reportedly struggling in Karnataka due to issues like corruption, unemployment and farmers' woes and the Congress' campaign has been focused mainly on these issues.

Therefore in Pawar's view, it is these issues and not Modi's degree or even Adani that can help defeat BJP electorally.


3. So What is the Bone of Contention in the Opposition?

Pawar's statement do not mean that he is breaking ranks with the Opposition. But they do point to a difference in approach within the Opposition.

It seems that Pawar seems to be of the view that Opposition should focus only on the fundamental issues that people are facing and that can potentially harm the BJP in the elections. This is completely in line with Pawar's pragmatic approach to politics.

The Congress and AAP do talk about unemployment and price rise, but they also want to up the ante on issues that make Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal stand out as challengers to PM Modi.

The Adani issue has become associated with Rahul Gandhi, even though parties like AAP, BRS and the Left and leaders like Mohua Moitra have also been raising the issue.

Similarly, the degrees issue has come to be associated with AAP since it works to Arvind Kejriwal's USP as a leader - as someone who is IIT-educated and a former civil servant.

There are fears among the Opposition that focussing too much on an issue like Adani, which is difficult to communicate to the masses or the degrees issue that is too much of a personal jibe, will be a repeat of the Congress' 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' fiasco during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

At a time when the economic effects of demonetisation and GST had become a weak point for the BJP, the Congress chose to focus its 2019 campaign on the Rafale issue.

Though Pawar has a point, one also gets the dilemma Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are facing. The BJP has successfully insulated PM Modi from questions around unemployment and price rise, even as it is facing a backlash on the same issues at the state level.

Therefore, both the leaders probably feel 2024 can't be won just on issus, Modi's personal popularity too needs to be weakened.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Aam Aadmi Party   NCP    Arvind Kejriwal 

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