New Delhi: With several Opposition leaders under the scanner of central probe agencies, NCP president Sharad Pawar on Sunday said his party would never surrender before the “rulers in Delhi” and urged all non-BJP par ties to work together to keep the saffron party away from power.
Addressing the eighth national convention of the NCP in the country’s capital, Pawar slammed the Narendra Modi government for rising inflation and unemployment, its handling of farmers’ protests, and for “fanning hatred” against religious minorities.
“We have to democratically challenge the present government, which is misusing central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and CBI and money power. We have to be prepared for a fight,” the 81-year-old Rajya Sabha member told party workers.
Pawar, who was unanimously re-elected party president on Saturday, said the legendary Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji never bowed before Delhi’s rulers and the NCP follows his path and has established itself as a progressive national party.
Pawar stressed on the significance of the venue for the convention: the Talkatora Indoor Stadium. “It is at this very place that Bajirao Peshwa had camped with his army in 1737 and challenged the rulers of Delhi,” he said.
The veteran also directed party workers to strategise with like-minded parties and undertake joint programmes on issues affecting the common man and work to keep the BJP away from power.
Later, briefing reporters, senior NCP leader Praful Patel said Pawar was uniquely placed to play a strong role in uniting the opposition forces. At the same time, he brushed aside rumours that the octogenarian was still a claimant for the Prime Minister's post.
Patel said Pawar always pursued constructive politics.
"Pawar saheb was never a claimant for the post of Prime Minister,” the former Union minister said.
“We are a party grounded in reality. Our party may be smaller in comparison to others, but our leader is respected across the country, much more than the popularity of our party.
"A question is always asked who will be up against the present ruling party in the country,” he continued. “Sharad Pawar is a strong leader who can bring various people and ideologies together through which we can play a strong political role... We do not want to say we will be the alternative, but through Sharad Pawar, an atmosphere can be built that can build trust among people."
The declaration by the NCP came amid attempts by Opposition leaders like Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others to bring like-minded parties together against the BJP.
Recently, KCR had visited Bihar and shared the stage with Nitish Kumar, where he said a decision on the Opposition’s prime ministerial candidate would be taken after discussions.
Nitish Kumar in turn had visited the national capital and met Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others, as part of the same attempt. The Opposition had made half-hearted attempts to get its leaders to unite in 2019 and was trounced by the BJP which returned with more seats than it had won in 2014.
This time, the Opposition seems to be working in right earnest with Pawar and Nitish Kumar leading the way.