Hunger for power and positions often form the core of Congress legacy. The same opportunism remains with some ex-Congressmen. For a long, Sharad Pawar cultivated friendship with the communists as he knew the 'hidden 'power' of the Left was making a Prime Minister. Mamata, too, has been hopping between UPA and NDA frequently.
New Delhi: Lust for power is a legacy for Congress and ex-Congress leaders.
The meeting between Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar – incidentally both former Congress leaders in Mumbai on Dec 1 – is the talk of the town, especially after the Trinamool Congress chief made "There is no UPA" remarks. Political observers, other key stakeholders and media persons are debating what might have transpired between the two.
One version is Mamata could have possibly offered to her former senior colleague – the prospect of office of President of India – the election for which is due July next year. This could make West Bengal's firebrand leader's claim to the post of 'Prime Ministerial candidate' in the run-up to the 2024 general elections much easier.
The 'Maratha strongman' Pawar for long harboured an ambition to be Prime Minister, but now, due to his failing health and age, he could readily 'reconcile' and settle for the President's post.
Theoretically, NCP's newfound ally in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, would back him rather unhesitatingly. Sena – that pledges politics of 'Marathi manus' assertion – had backed the Congress nominee Pratibha Patil in 2007, although NDA had then announced Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as their candidate.
Trinamool sources are tight-lipped about any such power share formula. But they agree that Pawar almost became India's Prime Minister in 1991 after Rajiv Gandhi's death when Congress had a good representation of Pawar-loyalists as Congress MPs in the 10th Lok Sabha from Maharashtra.
Pawar had then joined P V Narasimha Rao cabinet as the Defence Minister. NCP sources would easily confirm that the 'Maratha strongman' never gave up the ambition for the big post. The split caused by him in 1999 in Congress, to float NCP on the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin must be seen from that perspective.
Interestingly, for long, Pawar had cultivated friendship with the communists as he knew pretty well the 'hidden 'power' of the Left in throwing up or making a Prime Minister.
H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral were two beneficiaries of the Left behind the curtain power politics. Janata Dal's old warhorse Ramakrishna Hegde was left leaking his wounds furiously when he saw how Deve Gowda, a semi-mofussil character, made India's Prime Minister. Well informed Indian voters have not forgiven the communists.
Ironically this time around in 2021 and beyond, Pawar has to get himself ready to do business with Left's onetime bitter rival Mamata Banerjee. Political observers know that both Ms Banerjee and the 'Maratha strongman' have enough political flexibility and their respective admirers call it only pragmatic politics.
What has been going around is sheer 'opportunistic games' by Pawar and Mamata. It is another chapter that only after left humiliated Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala on Dec 2 described Mamata as 'an opportunist'.
The snap of Mamata's nephew Abhishek Banerjee touching Pawar's feet has gone viral and not without good reasons. Mamata Banerjee has done business with Congress whenever the games suited her but would now dump her original 'home'. Pawar, too has been of the same legacy and culture.
The 1999 'opportunism' of Pawar was an exemplary illustration. Within months of causing a split in the Congress on Sonia's foreign origin and floating NCP, Pawar and Sonia Gandhi did not mind sharing power again in Maharashtra. NCP has another record. It has been a so-called Left ally in Kerala and Mamata's partner in West Bengal.
But during the media interaction in Mumbai on Dec 1 in the presence of Mamata Banerjee, the NCP chief was a bit cautious though he too spoke about 'collective efforts'. The Congress leaders certainly see Mamata's remarks as 'hostile', but they say Pawar was softer and sober.
"We agreed upon the need to strengthen the collective efforts and commitment towards safeguarding democratic values and ensuring the betterment of our people," the NCP stalwart had tweeted later.
Of course, NCP has the compulsion to keep Congress in good humour as there is still a coalition regime in Maharashtra with Congress as a constituent.
In 2019, Pawar not only managed Shiv Sena to come out of the NDA fold. He met Sonia Gandhi personally to ensure Congress support for a government headed by Uddhav Thackeray.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary (Organisation) has counselled Mamata Banerjee to see reason. "Thinking that without Congress anybody can defeat BJP is merely a dream," he said.
Surjewala says, "Unhe bhi atma manthan karne ki jarurat hai (Mamata Banerjee also needs to do an honest soul searching)," Randeep Surjewala said. But such a thing exists ever in Mamata's brand of politics?
However, it is also known thing that the most significant state Uttar Pradesh legislators would play a crucial role in the ensuing presidential polls next year.
Therefore, the importance of polls in UP and Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa increase the manifold. A powerful federal front of regional parties – as dreamed by Mamata Banerjee – would also need a powerful regional party in Uttar Pradesh. Can either the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party or the BSP of Mayawati add further complexities and drama in the national power game?