Prime Minister Modi has, in the past, credited NCP chief Sharad Pawar for hand-holding him in politics during his early days. BJP had not even contested Pawar’s home ground Baramati in 2014. But that relationship seems to have soured now. In recent rallies in Maharashtra, the Prime Minister has openly attacked Sharad Pawar and his family for not just dynastic politics, but also corruption charges. Prime Minister even said, “How can Pawar sleep after allying with the Congress?”
The marked difference in the relationship between the two has the political circles buzzing. Sharad Pawar had continually attacked the Prime Minister on issues such as Rafale and the alleged politicisation of armed forces. In a rally last year, Pawar even made a jibe at the Prime Minister, “He targets me and my family often these days, but doesn’t know how a family runs. It is best if he keeps his nose out of my family.”
Most of the seats where NCP hopes to gain go to polls in the second and third phase of polling. Political observers say this could be one of the reasons why Prime Minister has sharpened his attack on the veteran. Pawar’s ambition to become Prime Minister himself is well known, he even hinted in a public meeting that it is not unheard of for a Rajya Sabha member to become Prime Minister, hinting that despite not contesting, he is still in the reckoning.
NCP leader Nawab Malik says, “Sharad Pawar has succeeded in bringing together various allies and has become a rallying force. He is also one of the tallest leaders in Maharashtra, which is why BJP feels that attacking him could perhaps affect our performance. But the BJP needs to know that we are going to cross more than 12 seats alone and criticising Sharad Pawar will only lead to more votes for us.”
Pawar supporters are criticising BJP for being rattled by the prospect of a Congress-NCP victory in the state, but the BJP thinks otherwise. BJP leader Madhav Bhandari said, “According to our assessment their alliance, let alone NCP, won’t even get double digits. Sharad Pawar is playing a different kind of politics, where he is criticising Rahul Gandhi on one hand, courting BJP and also criticising the Prime Minister on the other. So the Prime Minister is merely exposing Pawar.”
The BJP campaign in 2014 was mostly focused on the scams allegedly perpetrated by the Congress. But in this election, it seems that the party has trained its guns towards the veteran NCP leader as it believes the state Congress does not have any national leader, worth attacking by someone of the Prime Minister’s stature.