Sharad Pawar: Some steps by central government have jolted country's unity

Updated: Jan 10, 2020, 07:26 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

After wresting Maharashtra from the BJP juggernaut, NCP strongman Sharad Pawar lines up the central government in his sights with ambitious rally he flagged off from Mumbai to Delhi that will cover five states

NCP chief Sharad Pawar with  Yashwant Sinha flagging off the march. Pics /Suresh Karkera
NCP chief Sharad Pawar with Yashwant Sinha flagging off the march. Pics /Suresh Karkera

In a bid to push for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act to be repealed, former union minister Yashwant Sinha launched a 3,000-km march from Mumbai to New Delhi on Thursday from the Gateway of India. It was flagged off by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

The 21-day march, which will cross five states and culminate at Rajghat in the capital on January 30 — the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — was flagged off by none other than Maratha strongman and NCP Chief Sharad Pawar.

A veteran of many battles with over 50 years of public service under his belt, Pawar, 79, who was written off by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the recent October state election, only to emerge victorious, is now taking the battle against the party to the capital.

Sharad Pawar with Yashwant Sinha at the Gateway of India
Sharad Pawar with Yashwant Sinha at the Gateway of India

In September 2018, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo had found himself in trouble; the Enforcement Directorate was hounding him on corruption charges, his colleague and trusted companion Praful Patel was in a mess of his own regarding property dealings with deceased gangster Iqbal Mirchi, and many of his party leaders, tired of sitting in the Opposition, were defecting. One such example was Udayan Raje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who deserted the NCP just five months after he was elected and joined the BJP. But in a moment that will be remembered in times to come as the resurrection of the NCP, a rain-soaked Pawar delivered a thunderous speech at Satara while campaigning against Bhosale. What he said from the dais resonated tremendously with voters in the region, who went on to reject Bhosale and elect the Pawar-endorsed Shriniwas Patil.

The NCP went on to win 54 seats in the Assembly election, and Sharad Pawar became pivotal in brokering a coalition between his party, the Shiv Sena, and the Indian National Congress — all three of which now form the state government under the banner of Maha Vikas Aghadi.

Recently, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had said that Pawar's "name should be considered by all political parties for the post of President" scheduled to be held in 2022.

Support for shanti yatra
Other senior leaders such as the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi's Prakash Ambedkar and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan were also present at the Gateway on Thursday morning at the launch of the 'Gandhi Shanti Yatra,' by Sinha's non-political outfit, the Rashtra Manch. It was the same place where anti-CAA protesters had held their ground in a peaceful protest for nearly 30 hours since midnight Sunday. Standing next to a picture of Mahatma Gandhi, Pawar and the other leaders unanimously rejected the CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), and demanded that the CAA be rescinded. They also demanded a judicial probe into "state-sponsored" violence like at the JNU campus on the night of January 4 and the brutal police force unleashed against students previously at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University as well.

Also present at the event, which can metaphorically be looked at as the beginning of Pawar's second innings against the BJP, was a Trinamool Congress (TMC) member sent by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself, in an act of pledging support to the Gandhi Shanti Yatra.

'Need for awareness'
Stating that central government's dictatorship needs to be answered with Gandhiji's way of non-violence, Pawar said, "Some steps taken by the central government have given a jolt to the country's unity. Members of some small sections of the society feel their interests are not being protected."

The former union minister noted there are members of several sections of societies, including the minorities, who cannot tell where they came from and where they will live.

"They will be forced to live in some camps [detention centres allegedly to be set up by the government]. The government has left representatives of Independent India and shareholders of the country disappointed. Hence, we need to create awareness in society, need to ensure unity among all sections of society," he said.

He went on to say that the march would go to people in different regions and spread awareness about the government's "dictatorial policies," and also pounced on the central government for misusing its power and attacking students at different universities across the country. He said that there was a need to show the people the way ahead, and that this path would be shown to them via Mahatma Gandhi's ideology of non-violence, "that can be used to help the common man and save the constitution."

"We will protect the constitution created by B R Ambedkar. We will not let the country be divided again. We will not let Gandhi be murdered again. We all are one," said Sinha.

No. of states the march will go through

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