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‘Sharad Pawar Could Have Been PM In 1996 Only If… ‘

| Updated: April 11, 2024 11:23

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel claimed that party founder Sharad Pawar could have been the prime minister of India in 1996 but he missed a chance due to his own folly.

Patel cited Sharad Pawar’s “last-minute hesitancy” that cost him his chance to become the prime minister of the country.

“I have been in the party for a long time and have seen Sharad Pawar. I have a very close relationship with him. But he always hesitates at the last minute. In 1996, if Pawar saab had agreed to the suggestions of (then Prime Minister) HD Deve Gowda, he could have been the Prime Minister. Sharad Pawar could have been PM in 1996 if he was not hesitant,” he said.

In 1997, Sharad Pawar, then a part of the Congress, had lost to Sitaram Kesri in the race to become the party president. He and his supporters were expelled by the Congress and they formed the NCP in 1999 after opposing Sonia Gandhi’s right to lead the Congress, citing her Italian-born origin.

Patel also claimed that Sharad Pawar was “50 per cent ready” to go with the BJP-Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government last year when his nephew Ajit Pawar took oath as the state’s Deputy Chief Minister.

On July 2 last year, the junior Pawar triggered a split in the NCP when he and eight ministers of the party joined the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) government in Maharashtra.

Praful Patel, who belongs to the Ajit Pawar faction, said, “On July 2, 2023, Ajit Pawar and our ministers took oath under the Maharashtra government. On July 15 and 16, we met Sharad Pawar in Mumbai. We took his blessings and requested him to join us. We said we wanted to work under your leadership.”

“Later, Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar met in Pune. I believe that Pawar saab (Sharad Pawar) was 50 per cent ready (to join the BJP-Eknath Shinde’s Sena government in Maharashtra),” he said.

The split in the NCP led to wrangling between Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar factions over the party’s claim to the electoral symbol. Ultimately, the Election Commission ruled in February that Ajit Pawar’s faction was the ‘real’ NCP and allotted a new name for Sharad Pawar’s faction, ‘NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar’.

In October last year, Praful Patel said a majority of NCP leaders wanted to join a BJP-led government in Maharashtra in 2022. This was the time when a split in the Shiv Sena by Eknath Shinde led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

“In June 2022, when Eknath Shinde led the split in Shiv Sena and joined the BJP, 51 MLAs from the NCP wanted to join the BJP-led coalition to form a government in Maharashtra. NCP leaders had written a letter to Sharad Pawar about this,” he had said.

Praful Patel also took a dig at the Opposition INDIA bloc, saying it had “no plan” to take on the BJP-led NDA and called the alliance a “photo-op”.

“I had gone with Pawar saab to its (INDIA bloc’s) first meeting in Patna. They meet for photographs and nothing else. What plan do they have? They have no plan,” he said.

“If two parties are together in the alliance, they are opponents in Punjab, West Bengal and Kerala. Their plan is ‘Modi hatao’ (unseat PM Narendra Modi). But who will be the face of the alliance? People will make a decision and then vote,” he added.

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