Rafale deal: NCP says Pawar hasn’t given any clean chit to Modi, demands JPC probe

Mumbai, Sep 27: The NCP said Thursday that its chief Sharad Pawar has not given any clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Rafale issue, after the opposition leader’s remarks that “people have no doubts” over the prime minister’s intentions in the deal.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik also reiterated the party’s demands that the central government disclose the price of the fighter jets and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe the matter.

In an interview to a Marathi news channel, Pawar had said that he didn’t think that people have doubts about Modi’s intentions in the Rafale deal.

Pawar, a former Defence Minister, had also said that the Opposition’s demand to share technical details relating to the fighter jets “made no sense”. He, however, said there was no harm for the government to disclose prices of the aircraft.

Malik said Thursday that the media reports over Pawar’s statement are “confusing and misleading”.

“He (Pawar) has not made any statement defending Modi nor has he given any clean chit (in the Rafale deal matter),” the NCP leader said.

Malik said what Pawar meant was that people initially didn’t have doubts about the prime minister.

“What Pawar saheb said was that the way the matter is being hushed up (by the government) and attention of people from the issue is being diverted, the doubt is deepening,” Malik said.

In his interview, Pawar had also said that the way Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the government’s side led to confusion in the minds of people.

Quoting Pawar, Malik said the government should share information about escalation of the fighter jets price.

“The way the BJP had insisted on forming a JPC in the Bofors deal in the 1980s, it should now allow formation of such a committee in connection with the Rafale issue too,” Malik demanded.

His remarks came even as BJP chief Amit Shah lauded Sharad Pawar’s comments and asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to believe his own ally who has put “national interests above party politics”.

“I thank Sharad Pawar, a former Defence Minister and veteran MP, for placing national interests above party politics and speaking the truth. Dear Rahul Gandhi, you would be wiser by believing your own ally and a leader of Pawar Saheb’s stature,” Shah tweeted.

He tagged the Congress president in his tweet which also attached a news story on Pawar’s comments .

Meanwhile, Malik said NCP workers will observe a “maun vrat” (vow of silence) for three hours on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2.

The Congress has launched an offensive against the BJP government over the Rafale deal with France, alleging corruption and violation of rules.

The opposition party has accused the government of causing loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by bypassing state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in favour of some businessman “friends” for awarding the offset contract.

The government as denied the charges.

Source: PTI

Sonia Gandhi, Deve Gowda and I can unite Opposition, says Sharad Pawar

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has proposed that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and he — three senior leaders with “no ambition to become Prime Minister” — should come together to unite the Opposition, travel throughout the country, give confidence to the people, and provide a robust counter-narrative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, reports the Hindustan Times.

Pawar has also, for the first time, opened the doors of the NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and said that while he had not discussed the issue with BSP chief Mayawati, he would be ‘happy’ since this association will pay dividends.

In an interview to Hindustan Times, Pawar laid out a detailed roadmap for the Opposition for 2019. He compared the current political situation to 1975-77; argued that disillusionment has set in against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like it had against Indira Gandhi; and suggested that the Opposition focus should be on state-wide alliances instead of a national alliance. Pawar called for the leadership question to be left for after the elections, and while urging the Congress to adopt a “rational approach” on state partnerships, said that he has felt over recent conversations that Rahul Gandhi has “substantially improved”.

Emphasising the parallels between the current political climate and the situation in 1975-77, when he was a minister in the Maharashtra government, Pawar said that like Indira Gandhi, Modi too had “control of media, government and government agencies”.

At that time too, he said, people were pointing to the lack of an alternative platform, organisation and leader to pose a genuine challenge.

“The difference is there was one leader – Jayaprakash Narayan. Political leaders and people were willing to accept his advice. And ultimately on his advice, most leaders forgot their parties.” Pawar said that it was eventually after the election that the Janata Party came together and Morarji Desai was elected the leader.

He added, “I honestly feel that there are some leaders, like Sonia Gandhi, (HD) Deve Gowda and, while I should not say it, myself also…we have no ambition to become Prime Minister. At least I am speaking for myself. But I have ambition to bring all these forces together and provide a viable alternative. For that, some of us – the names I have mentioned – can travel throughout India and give confidence to the people of India because today, there is no JP (Jayaprakash Narayan).”

The BJP did not comment on Pawar’s remarks.

Pawar said his assessment was it was not possible to bring all forces at the National level. “Is it possible at the state level? I am in close dialogue with various state leaders and my own assessment is yes.”

Pawar then laid out the architecture of the state-wide alliances, which would have to rest on other parties conceding space to Congress where it was the dominant force and Congress recognising its era of total dominance was over and giving space to regional parties in other places.

In Kerala, West Bengal and Delhi, he spoke of the Left, Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party respectively as the number one forces around which the Opposition should rally.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had broadly agreed with him, claimed Pawar, praising Gandhi’s approach of not projecting any leader before elections as the “correct, sensible approach”.

“He (Rahul) said there are some states where it is difficult for my colleagues to accept or digest this situation, particularly Kerala and West Bengal. In Kerala, they feel our fight with the Left is equal. In West Bengal, the position is not like Kerala, but the overall thinking of the leadership of the Congress party about Mamata is such that it is difficult for them to accept her. He told me that it is difficult in these two-three states. I told him you are the leader, and it is your job to convince.”

Comparing Sonia and Rahul, the NCP chief said that even though he had fought with Sonia Gandhi, they shared an excellent equation, she tried to understand issues and gave respect to other leaders. “Rahul is also showing it. There is a definite improvement.”

Pawar also said that he had recently met Mayawati. “She has consolidated the position in UP with Samajwadi Party and others. But she expects other parties to take a rational approach in other states. She is totally for a change and she is ready to work hard.” When asked if he would be open to allying with her in Maharashtra, he replied, “I have not discussed it with her. I will be happy. Her association will pay dividends in Vidarbha region.”

Pawar categorically ruled himself out of the PM race. “Irrational thinking has no meaning in politics. There has to be rational thinking. My party will ultimately contest 30-35 seats throughout India. I may get 50 percent maximum. With that number, if anyone dreams of becoming PM of this country, he is quite away from reality.”

Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “Pawar’s assessment broadly strikes a chord with the mantra other opposition leaders have uttered: ‘localise, localise, localise.’ While the BJP pushes to nationalise and make 2019 about Modi, the best bet for the Opposition is to make this 543 unique elections. State-specific alliances avoid tricky pan-Indian questions about leadership that the opposition is in no place to answer right now.”

Vaishnav added that a big looming question is whether the Congress would be willing to take a backseat in electorally critical states. “Recent moves — Karnataka is a case in point — suggest it might be.”

Source: Hindustan Times

Congress, Samajwadi, Mayawati and Ajit Singh Reach Mega UP Deal To Take on BJP: Sources

A broad agreement has been worked out between the Congress, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Dalit powerhouse Mayawati and RLD leader Ajit Singh to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the maximum number of parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha, reports NDTV.

Sources said the parties have decided to work out the details of sharing the state’s 80 seats later.

The understanding between the parties in the nation’s largest state is crucial to the building of an opposition front to take on the BJP in next year’s general elections.

The idea of a common front in Uttar Pradesh paid dividends in by-elections held in the state earlier this year – delivering to the opposition the high-profile seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur, and later Kairana and Noorpur.

Last week, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar – one of the key interlocutors for an opposition front – met Ms Mayawati.

The meeting, sources said, explored seat adjustment, especially for the three key states going to polls at the end of the year – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

Seat-sharing between Mayawati and the Congress has hit a roadblock in Madhya Pradesh over the BSP chief’s demand for 50 of the state’s 230 seats. Sources in the Congress say the party has offered her 22 and has refused to go beyond 30.

“It has to be a formidable alliance to take on the BJP and not one that would ensure a revolt in both parties and help the BJP,” a leader said.

In Uttar Pradesh, Congress sources say the alliance is work in progress, reports NDTV.

The BSP and the Samajwadi Party have a broad understanding, under which Ajit Singh’s party will be given seats from the SP quota.

Sources say the parties are ready to give the Congress eight of 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

“Unless there are tough negotiations, we will not agree to more than 10. The BSP will be given the maximum seats and the SP will be contesting approximately on 32. Three seats will go to the RLD,” a leader said.

The Congress has already finalised its alliances for Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

For Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, it has worked out a seat-sharing formula with local heavyweights JMM and M Karunanidhi’s DMK.

The alliance in Tamil Nadu also includes the Left, which has agreed to work with the Congress in and outside parliament.

In Bihar, Congress’ ‘Grand Alliance’ with Lalu Yadav stands, strengthened by the defection of Nitish Kumar to the BJP.

In Maharashtra, the Congress has already worked out a seat-sharing formula with Sharad Pawar. Several smaller parties are also expected to be part of the alliance.

Source: NDTV