Does PM know fallout of nuclear war?: Pawar

Sharad Pawar (DH Photo)

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar wears many hats and is always on the go. Pawar has contested 14 Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections from Baramati and has never lost so far. With ties cutting across party lines, Pawar is considered a master-politician by all.

The Maratha strongman is expected to play a major role in the post-poll scenario. "My role would be limited to bringing all of them together," Pawar tells Mrityunjay Bose of DH in an interview. Excerpts:

What is the difference between 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections?

The UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh was in power for 10 years. BJP had projected Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. He visited every nook and corner of the country and spoke of development, development and development.  He spoke of the Gujarat model of development. Most people were of the opinion of giving him the opportunity. He succeeded but now the country is in an agrarian crisis — in the last two years, there have been 11,998 suicides by farmers. Employment has dropped, unemployment has increased, younger generation is unhappy. Industrial production and GDP growth are coming down. In fact, we want to listen to the prime minister on what he has done in five years, but he is taking the campaign on a different tangent.  

The prime minister is making personal attacks against you.

He should speak about what he has achieved in five years in terms of economy, agriculture.  Personal attacks take us nowhere. In fact, he is convinced that the mood of the country is against him and hence he is making personal attacks and targetting people. He is misleading people. He is trying to pass on blame of farmers' suicide. I had left agriculture ministry five years ago. When the UPA government was at the Centre and suicides were reported from Yavatmal, I spoke to (former) prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and he himself visited. We came out with a Rs 70,000 crore loan waiver.  During our tenure, we made India self-sufficient in foodgrains. 

The BJP is on the issue of nationalism and is projecting the valour of armed forces. 

The other day, Modi said that India's nuclear bombs were not for Diwali. He is the prime minister! What he is talking about? Does the gentleman know about the fallout of a nuclear war? What message we are giving to the world. The world will call India an aggressor. 

You are being seen as a person who is going to play the most important role in the post-poll scenario. Your comments?

My role would be limited to bringing all of them together. I did not contest the Lok Sabha elections. In 2014 also, I did not contest the polls, I went to Rajya Sabha. At 79, I think, I am okay for House of elders. I had contested 14  elections and lost none. 

What are the changes you have seen in Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the years?

He is working hard. He is understanding the grassroots. He has improved a lot in the last few years and this is reflecting. 

One of the big issues that the opposition is raising is the Rafale fighter jet deal. Your views.

No doubt, Rafale is the best available option for us.  I have no reservation to say that it is the best. However, there are issues like the increase in the price and the contract being given to the company owned by Anil Ambani. Does it have any experience of making an aircraft? Has the company ever made a paper plane? He said that when the Bofors issue came up, the opposition demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee. The then government did it. There was nothing. Now, the government is not even agreeing to a JPC. 

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