Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sharad Pawar’s game of one-upmanship

Three developments that took place on the same day, Thursday, appear to be unrelated but they together bring pressure on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Rahul’s plea for stay on conviction was rejected by Additional Sessions Judge R.P. Mogera at Surat. The court rejected Rahul’s contention that the trial was unfair.

The second development was that a special trial court acquitted all 67 accused, including former Gujarat Minister Maya Kodnani, Bajarnag Dal leader Babu Bajarangi and former VHP leader Jaidip Patel in the Naroda massacre case of 2002 riots. Eleven members of the minority community were killed by the rioters in that village. 86 accused were named in the first information report (FIR) and the charge sheet that followed. 18 of them died during the time the trial has taken. One of the accused was discharged earlier. The trial that had begun in 2009 has ended now, 21 years after the riots took place.

Both the courts happen to be in Gujarat.

The third apparently independent development was Gautam Adnai, the controversial industrial  tycoon met Sharad Pawar, the tallest opposition leader, at the latter’s residence (Silver Oak) for some three hours while the other opposition leaders have been demanding the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into Adani-Hindenburg issue. The meeting took place weeks after the NCP patriarch supported the beleaguered industrialist and criticized the US based research and the short-selling firm for targeting his industrialist friend.

The Naroda acquittal is unusual to say the least. Babu Bajarangi was all over India Today in those days for boasting that he sent his trishul inside the tummy of a pregnant woman in order to kill the baby also. The prosecution may not have got hold of the old copies of India Today.

One would have thought some sense of fair play remained in the BJP leadership that would prevent the party from celebrating the rejection of Rahul’s request for a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his remark on “Modi surname.” The BJP high command must have decided to use the legal means also to target the Congress leader. It can further  encourage its leaders to file defamation cases across the country. The process appears to have begun. The courts would keep him busy. Rahul would appeal in a high court for relief from the decision of the Surat court. Abhishek Manu Singhvi,  a senior Congress leader and a highly regarded advocate who described the judgment “unfortunate” and unsustainable, said Rahul Gandhi would continue to speak fearlessly in the court of the people.

There may not be fear in Rahul Gandhi but there is certainly a lot of pressure on him. He lost membership of the Lok Sabha and had to vacate his residence in Delhi. Sharad Pawar who is playing perhaps his last innings has been exerting pressure indirectly on the Gandhi scion in his own way.

Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Adani is one of the many things he can simultaneously do. Ajit Pawar commanding the loyalties of forty MLAs is a humbug. Not a single MLA would side with him without a nod from the NCP chief. One should understand that posing Ajit Pawar as a rebel who is prepared to ditch his mentor is part of Sharad Pawar’s game. Would he allow Ajit Pawar to join the BJP bandwagon?

It is Sharad Pawar’s style of underlining his importance in the present opposition circus. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thakre is a straight player brought up by a strong father. He is solely dependent on Sharad’s advice for political manoeuvres. The leaders if Trinamool Congress, AAP and TRS may prefer him for the top job, should it be available. The DMK, RJD and JD(U) which have been supporting the Congress may have no objection to allow Sharad Pawar to have his ambition fulfilled since Rahul is younger and can wait. The Maratha leader can manage the industrialist lobby. He may not ask Rahul to desist from demanding JPC to probe Adani as he did in the case of Veer Savarkar. But he is placing himself on different pedestal where he will be considered taller than Rahul Gandhi or Nitish Kumar. There is reason to believe that Sharad Pawar does not expect Narendra Modi to score a hat trick. In which case, he would have a role to play for which he appears to be preparing. In the process he has to put pressure on Rahul and sideline him to the extent possible without jeopardizing the opposition unity. Only Sharad Pawar can play this kind of delicate games skillfully.

Rahul Gandhi, in the meanwhile, would do well to concentrate on the work he has been doing – fighting for the   idea of India. It will benefit him and the country in the long run.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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