Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar hosted poll strategist Prashant Kishor for over three hours Friday, fuelling talks of the octogenarian making yet another attempt at uniting opposition parties against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2024 general election.
Kishor visited Pawar at the latter’s Mumbai residence, Silver Oak. The meeting started at about 11 am, followed by lunch at the NCP president’s house. Kishor left Silver Oak a little after 2 pm, following which Pawar too left his Mumbai residence for Pune, NCP sources said.
The meeting is significant as it comes after the victories of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, both states that the BJP had been aggressively campaigning in before the assembly elections held last month. Kishor was involved in the election strategies of both parties.
“It was a closed-door meeting. Jayant Patil (NCP State President) was present at the meeting, along with Pawar saheb for a considerable time. Supriya tai (Baramati MP and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule) also met Prashant Kishor for some time, as she was at Silver Oak too. We don’t know what was discussed, but definitely they would have talked about the current political situation, the recent assembly elections, Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) performance and so on,” an NCP leader close to Pawar said.
Pawar is said to be the chief architect of the MVA, which comprises the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
Before the meeting, senior NCP Minister Chhagan Bhujbal told reporters, “Prashant Kishor is a well-known election strategist and he has proved his success by helping several parties win elections. I don’t know the reasons for this meeting, but if he makes any suggestions, I am sure the NCP president will consider them.”
Incidentally, Kishor had talked of “quitting this space” after the West Bengal election results, alleging that the Election Commission was too partial to the BJP.
Talk of an opposition alliance
Following incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal, NCP minister in Maharashtra and party spokesperson Nawab Malik had said that Pawar will try to form a united front of opposition parties, especially regional outfits.
Political commentator Pratap Asbe told ThePrint Friday that Pawar had noted in the past that national politics will change after the West Bengal election, and that the leader has been making fresh attempts to rally regional parties against the BJP. Asbe cautioned, however, that there were issues that need to be strategically tackled for this.
“Some states worry about being dominated, some are wary of taking extreme positions. In the meeting with Prashant Kishor, they must have discussed where different states stand, the public perception about the BJP in different states, and so on,” Asbe said.
He added that Kishor’s role in the Trinamool Congress’ victory in the recent assembly election makes the strategist’s meeting with the NCP president more significant, as Pawar and Mamata Banerjee are old allies who share common ground.
“In 1993, when the Congress wanted to get Pawar back to Maharashtra from the Centre and take over the reins as Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee had opposed the move and even visited Pawar’s house, requesting him to not head back to his home state. Their relations are as old, if not older. They also share a common political background as both left the Congress and started their own parties,” Asbe added.
Moreover, Kishor had also helped the Shiv Sena draw up strategies for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A constant interlocutor for opposition unity
Pawar, who has a reputation of being a crafty coalition maker, had made a similar attempt at stitching together an alliance of opposition parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. For this, he had used his position of a leader who shares cordial relations with most regional parties, as well as political adversaries.
However, the BJP’s overwhelming majority in the polls and the NCP’s defeat in 15 out of the 19 constituencies that it contested in its home state, shattered his hopes as well as his national ambitions.
However, his ability to cobble together a coalition of political rivals Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP in Maharashtra, to keep the BJP out of power after the 2019 state polls, has brought renewed heft to Pawar’s national plans.
The NCP’s new ally, Shiv Sena, too has been pushing for Pawar to be the face of an anti-BJP alliance.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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