Exclusive: Sharad Pawar On Hindenburg Report, JPC Probe, Opposition Unity | Read

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  • Published On: April 07, 2023
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Sharad Pawar, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and one of the country's tallest politicians speaks exclusively to NDTV 24x7's Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia on the Adani-Hindenburg row, Karnataka elections and more.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

NDTV: Namaskar, welcome to NDTV. This is a very special meeting because it is between two SPs. One a very big Sharad Pawar, the Ajatshatru of politics and the other a small journalist, Sanjay Pugalia. I thank you for taking the time out for this interview. After the incidents of the last few days, few big questions have been raised. Such a parliamentary impasse, how do you see it after a 56-year-career in parliament, and what is the condition of opposition unity, and if the Congress is the axis, then the single-point agenda they are about to propagate, what is the assessment of the other opposition parties about it? Disrupting parliament like this and thinking that a point has been scored is unfortunate.

Sharad Pawar: The questions you asked, I will answer them, but you started by talking about two SPs and I wanted to say the two SPs had never met, and it is unprecedented. It is just a joke.

The question of the parliament impasse, I feel whatever is happening is not right but we also cannot disregard that it has happened earlier too.

When Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of the country, I was part of his government, and then on the 2G issue the session was washed out for many days. When it reconvened, we sat together later and we discussed that there can be differences, allegations but this forum is an important forum to put forward the problems of the people, if this forum does not work, and if we the representatives of the people cannot do anything about it, it is not right.

Unfortunately, in the last month, we have seen that both houses of parliament were not allowed to function and there was ruckus.

There can be different viewpoints, criticism, one has the right to speak strongly about the policies of the government, but a discussion should take place. A discussion and dialogue is very important in any democracy, if you ignore discussion and dialogue the system will fall into danger, it will just perish.

NDTV: The issue that was raised and led to such a conflict, how do you see it because different parties have had different views, but the focus went on the Congress party's extreme stand. Ultimately you went along with it, you did not say such disruptions are not on, it is lazy politics.

Sharad Pawar: I will have to accept that it was not only the Congress that was involved. There was unity. The Samajwadi Party came later, the Telugu Desam was there, they came later, a Tamil Nadu party was there, many parties were there.

The shortcoming I see here is this, when there is a struggle in parliament over any issue, like I said earlier, there should be a dialogue. I have spent 56 years in Vidhan Sabha and parliament continuously and I have seen such problems, ruckus at many times, but after this happened, in the evening, the next morning was a normal morning. It is everyone's responsibility that if there is conflict in parliament and ok the session will not run that day but to get the house to run the next day, whether you sit in the evening or the next day, there must be an effort to find a solution.

This process of dialogue is absent these days. I remember, Ghulam Nabi Azad used to be the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and the opposition was very strong. On many issues the opposition would not let the parliament run. But Ghulam Nabi would sit with the leader of opposition and try and find a way and the house would function.

These days, like carrying out an extreme struggle is not right, likewise cancelling the dialogue process is not right too. Both these things coincided and the whole session got washed out.

NDTV: I want to understand from you, that every person wants to understand politics by decoding it, but to go to an extreme, to carry out the individualisation of politics that we will carry out personal attacks, and the issue disappears. The ruling party said you are raising a non-issue, what should we respond, what should the dialogue be. When a non-issue was personalised and politicised, then it is advantage PM Modi.

Sharad Pawar: The issues got personalised too and some worthy issues got ignored too. In the house, what issues need more intervention, we used to think about it, what are the big issues before the people of the country - unemployment, inflation, law, and order and such problems. It's ok, political issues come up one or two days but to ignore the issues of the common people regularly is not right. When this happens, we are following the wrong path. This is what we need to understand.

NDTV: Then is it right to say that the fault of not raising other burning issues lies with the Congress?

Sharad Pawar: No, I do not want to blame any one party. Apart from the Congress, the Left and other parties were involved too. They got together and set aside some major issues and highlighted some other issues before parliament and the problems of the common people got neglected.

NDTV: Let's talk about the other issue. A foreign short-seller comes with an intent to earn money, brings a report, and raises questions on a businessman. We think of that as the biggest issue in the country without looking at the impact on the financial system, investor confidence and the economy. A demand was made for a Supreme Court inquiry or a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) probe. If a Supreme Court inquiry is happening, then what is the locus of a JPC probe?

Sharad Pawar: The thing is, you spoke about a foreign firm or individual making a statement. The statement caused an uproar across the country. Such statements were given by other individuals too earlier and there was a ruckus in parliament for a few days but this time out of proportion importance was given to the issue. The issues that were kept, who kept them, we had never heard of these people who gave the statement, what is the background. When they raise issues that cause a ruckus across the country, the cost is borne by the country's economy, we cannot disregard these things. It seems this was targeted.

An individual industrial group of the country was targeted, that is what it seems. If they have done anything wrong, there should be an inquiry, a demand for a JPC probe was made in parliament. I had a different viewpoint on this. JPCs were appointed on many issues. I remember a JPC was appointed once on the issue of Coca Cola and I was the chairman. So, a JPC has never been formed earlier, that is not the case. A demand for a JPC is not wrong, but why was the demand made? The demand for a JPC was made to say that some industrial house must be inquired into.

After the demand was raised, then the Supreme Court took initiative on its own and appointed a committee with a retired Supreme Court judge, an expert, an administrator, and economist, they were given guidelines and a timeframe and told to conduct an inquiry. On the other hand, the opposition wanted a parliamentary committee to be appointed. If a parliamentary committee is appointed, then the monitoring is with the ruling party. The demand was against the ruling party, and if the committee appointed for an inquiry has a ruling party majority, then how will the truth come out is a valid concern. If the Supreme Court, who no one can influence, if they were to conduct the inquiry, then there was a better chance of the truth coming to light. So, after the Supreme Court announced an inquiry, there was no significance of a JPC probe. It was not needed.

NDTV: Sir you have explained in great detail where the JPC is needed and where it isn't. The Congress knows politics a lot, what is the intent?

Sharad Pawar: I cannot say what the intent was but I know that a committee appointed by judges of the Supreme Court was very important, this is what I know. Maybe the reasoning could have been that once a JPC starts, its proceedings are reported in the media on a daily basis. Perhaps someone would have wanted the issue to fester for two-four months, but the truth would never have come out.

NDTV: Before the elections, the opposition would naturally feel the need to raise a sensational issue that will reap electoral benefits. I want to ask you, is this issue pointless electorally, you are one of the architects of Maharashtra, modernisation and businesses take the development of the country forward, so a party like the Congress that led reforms, when it creates an anti-business and anti-entrepreneurial atmosphere, is it objectionable or not?

Sharad Pawar: I will not accept this was an anti-business atmosphere. This has been happening in this country for many years. I remember many years ago that when we came into politics, if we had to speak against the government, we used to speak against Tata-Birla. Who was the target? Tata-Birla. When we understood the contribution of Tata, we used to wonder why we kept on saying Tata-Birla. But one had to target someone so we used to target Tata-Birla. Today the name of Tata-Birla is not at the forefront, different Tata-Birlas have come before the government. So these days if you have to attack the government, the name of Ambani and Adani is taken. The question is, that the people you are targeting, if they have done something wrong, misused their powers, then in a democracy you have a right to speak against them 100 per cent, but to attack without anything meaningful, this I cannot understand.

Today, Ambani has contributed in the petrochemical sector, does the country not need it? In the field of electricity, Adani has contributed. Does the country not need electricity? These are people who take up such responsibility and work for the name of the country. If they have done wrong, you attack, but they have created this infrastructure, to criticise them does not feel right to me.

NDTV: Maharashtra has been at the forefront when it comes to infrastructure. And I want to blame the political class, that as it is, it is very difficult to work in the infrastructure sector, and to not understand this or to not educate the people, this is a failure of the political class.

Sharad Pawar: If any country has to progress you cannot ignore infrastructure. Today, there is the Mumbai airport, it is an international airport. Today, it is important to expand it. Today, we have to give facilities beyond take-off and landing. Mumbai is a major international city, the economic nerve centre of the country. An economic centre needs an effective means of communication and if steps are taken to implement this, then to put impediments would not be right. If there is something wrong one has to intervene but one needs infrastructure.

In Maharashtra there is talk about building ports at one or two locations. You need ports for effective means of communication by the sea coast. If there are ports, highways and airports in the country, this will benefit the country's economy. So whether it is an highway, port, airport, irrigation project, the country needs this and to create a roadblock in this is not right.

NDTV: When I started my career I was the Dharavi reporter, and we used to listen to political statements about the redevelopment of Dharavi. Now, after these years we are saying it will be done. Your thoughts.

Sharad Pawar: Yes, the residents will get good homes, the facade of the place will improve, there are many small industries in Dharavi. There are people who run diverse businesses there, they will get infrastructure, they will get facilities, their exports and sale will rise. This is a matter of the benefit to a city and institution. The image we have of Dharavi right now, when people come to Mumbai and see the Dharavi slums while landing, a misconception can be created, which is why there are plans to redevelop it. I think this is a good thing.

NDTV: If there is any talk of opposition unity, you will be its chief architect. You have unity in parliament but opposition unity in real terms still appears to be a dream.

Sharad Pawar: Opposition unity is very important but there should be clarity on issues. Today, opposition parties have different ideologies and ways of thinking. People like us, we want opposition unity, but our thrust is on development. We have other people who want opposition unity but this Leftist thinking in their minds they do not want to move away from it. Opposition unity will only work with a specific programme and a direction, if this is not there any opposition unity will not be beneficial for the country.

NDTV: The issue is what happens in a constituency in an election. If there is no one-on-one contest. Also, the BJP's biggest challengers are regional parties, you people, not the Congress. Because of the hype now, the Congress may end up believing they are the dominant party, this will be the biggest impediment.

Sharad Pawar: There is a lot of difference in the Congress party of now and the Congress party of earlier. But you cannot ignore the Congress. The Congress is present in many states of the country. Some of our colleagues feel there is a need to get non-Congress parties together. I feel much more important is - why is opposition unity needed? What is the programme and roadmap, if there is clarity on this, a way forward will emerge. This will benefit the country, but we have to accept we are not there yet.

NDTV: Sir, in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha polls in states like Karnataka, what is your assessment?

Sharad Pawar: My assessment is that there are two types of elections, a national election for the central government and an election for the states. My personal assessment, and you may not agree, is that the state elections are a different ball game. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, they are all non-BJP. There is an election in Karnataka, my assessment is the Congress will win, it is non-BJP. UP, Gujarat are BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, it was a Congress government, Kamal Nath was the Chief Minister, the BJP broke away MLAs and formed the government. When the elections come, things could change there. In Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Bengal, many such states are non-BJP. In many states, after elections, non-BJP governments can come to power. Like I am saying to you, when the national elections come, if we do something together it is different, otherwise it will be very difficult to ignore the BJP, nothing will work for us if we do not do something together.

NDTV: This is a clean analysis that a politician, a political worker and a journalist can understand. Some people create a confusion about you, the NCP, that you are in the opposition and speaking positive about the Congress but in Nagaland you are with the BJP?

Sharad Pawar: See, in Nagaland, seven of our people were elected. I have seen the conditions there as a central minister. It is a sensitive area.

When such forces are present then you keep political interest aside and look at national interest. If it was Manipur or Meghalaya, we would not have taken such a call. But when in many processes there were separatist tendencies then it is important to present strong leadership there. It is a small state - there will hardly be any political repercussions but anti-national forces may fester if we do not pay attention, and the country and the north east will have to pay.

NDTV: You have explained this very well. Sir, thank you for taking out the time and this is my first interview after taking charge of NDTV, with a political Ajatshatru, thank you.

(Disclaimer: New Delhi Television is a subsidiary of AMG Media Networks Limited, an Adani Group Company.)

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