‘Ajit Pawar made a choice as a citizen in a democracy… I can’t say if he will return, but we’ll try best to keep the family intact’: Supriya Sule

MORE THAN a month after Ajit Pawar split the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and walked into the BJP camp, the party and the Pawar family are still grappling with the after effects – even as NCP allies watch warily the fact that there is not a complete break between the two factions. In her first detailed interview since the defection, NCP leader and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule blames the BJP for what happened, says that their fight with the Ajit Pawar group is “ideological” and that as a family they remain one, and asserts that from their current position, the only way for the NCP is up. Excerpts:

How do you see Ajit Pawar’s exit from the party? Do you still won’t call it a split?

It is very unfortunate and disappointing for me. Because there is a conflict of ideas and ideology. I fought my election against the BJP, so when a part of our team decides something like this and the party is disrupted, it is unfortunate. Yes… it is an emotional split. After all, politics is about policies and ideologies. It is

Did Ajit Pawar’s decision to move out come as a complete surprise?

I don’t think there is any particular reason (for them to split) and they are not making any allegations. The only question was whether to join hands with the BJP or not. Some party members were fine with it, while we were not. I think that was the only reason. This is not the first attempt (to split the party). There have been several attempts in the past. The BJP kept changing its strategy. After the initial failures, the third time was a far deeper plan. It is unfortunate that in Indian politics today, ideology is so diluted. Media says that the reason could be power, it says development, it says ‘agencies’. It could be anything. Those who joined (the BJP) are in a better position to give the reason.

not a business transaction, that I don’t like a job here and going there. This is what differentiates us from them.

Leaders from the Ajit Pawar group have blamed you as one of the reasons for the split.

But they gave a clarification and, since it has been given, I don’t want to stress upon it too much. No reason to be a prisoner of the past because India is facing far greater challenges. Price rise, unemployment, inflation, data protection Act are the real challenges, instead of who said what.

Serious allegations were levelled against NPC president Sharad Pawar by Ajit Pawar after the split. How do you see the same?

Painful. Exceptionally, deeply, emotionally painful. It is my only reaction. We are all humans at the end of the day. But I believe in dialogue and in democracy. We are not enemies, we have ideological differences.

Is that the reason why the Pawars have continued meeting?

Why should they not? And, after seeing the way things have happened and the speeches made by Sharad Pawar, I doubt anyone would believe that Sharad Pawar is supporting them (the Ajit group). Ultimately, it was they who made the allegations. We never used unparliamentary language, nor made any allegation.

But the meetings are making MVA allies anxious.

That (not meeting) will be undemocratic. How can anyone not meet the other in a democracy? But yes, we must be answerable and accountable to our allies… So, there’s nothing wrong with whatever they feel. It is our duty to communicate the honest truth to them, which we will. Dialogue is important in politics for this reason.

Are you keeping the window open for the return of the Ajit Pawar group?

Of course there is much disappointment. However, a dialogue cannot be the window to allow the return and I cannot comment on whether he will return. But I believe that we, from our end, will try best to keep the family intact. We will try not to bring politics into the family. He has made a choice for himself as an Indian citizen in a democratic system. Why should it be a political battle between us? It is an ideological battle. Two ideologies will fight against each other. We will be one family, but contest against each other ideologically.

How do you see the BJP’s moves to, first, get Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde on board, and then Ajit Pawar?

I feel sad for the 106 BJP MLAs in Maharashtra who worked so hard to get there. Had I been there, I would have felt very hurt.

Whom do you blame for the split?

It is true that the NCP has faced disruption. It has become obvious that the BJP is absolutely anti-Maharashtra. They break families, they break parties. My angst is only against the BJP. I blame nobody but the BJP. They don’t believe in a fair democracy. The new BJP is such that it looks at us as enemies, which is a shallow, narrow way of looking at things.

Why is it that the NCP is always looked at with suspicion, as a party that can join hands with the BJP anytime, unlike other Opposition parties in whose case such questions never arise?

Maybe because we have good personal relations with many, and a lot of offers are made to us. We don’t get personal, do not attack families… Despite all this speculation, Mr Pawar has never joined hands with the BJP.

There were rumours that you too were offered a ministerial position in the Union Cabinet by the BJP?

Not to my knowledge. I have no personal enmity against anyone in the world. I have serious problems with the BJP, at an ideological level. I did not grow up in this India where hate for each other is so common and even talking about issues creates fear. Power has now been centralised, cooperative federalism is over.

Are you worried about the NCP’s political future?

No. Once you are at zero, the only way is up. Success, failure are a part of the game. Look at Sharad Pawar, who didn’t blink an eyelid when he said he has zero MLAs with him. I am sure that even my Baramati Lok Sabha constituency will have its challenges. BJP ministers have been coming there every 15 days. Let them come. Let there be a fight.

How do you see the future of the party?

There is one (NCP) group which is in power, the other is not. But, technically there is no split in the party. Certain MLAs from the Maharashtra unit of the party have taken the decision without the consent of its leader. Sharad Pawar is the national president. Jayant Patil is the state president. We have informed this to the Election Commission as well as the Assembly Speaker. We are waiting for the commission to give an order, so that we can approach the court.

What do you expect from the Election Commission?

This is politics, and you know how unfair they (the BJP) can be. I still believe that systems should work in a democracy. Unfortunately, we have seen many organisations which were independent but no more so. I won’t be surprised if things don’t go the right way.

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