Former President Pranab Mukherjee has said that unfulfilled political ambitions of heading the Congress party may have prompted Maratha satrap Sharad Pawar to revolt against Sonia Gandhi and launch his own outfit NCP.
In his book ‘Coalition Years’, Mukherjee touched upon the attack orchestrated by Pawar over Sonia’s “Italian origin” in a meeting of the Congress working committee in 1999.
According to Mukherjee, Pawar was perhaps slighted by the fact that Congress had asked Sonia to stake claim to form the government after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime fell in a confidence vote. Also, Pawar had been downgraded as an advisor after Sonia took the party reins.
“In my opinion, Pawar, as the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, expected the party to request him, instead of Sonia Gandhi, to stake claim to form the government. After Sonia’s elevation as the Congress president, she consulted P Shiv Shankar on all important issues rather than Pawar. This sense of alienation and disenchantment may have been responsible for his statements on Sonia’s foreign origin, and his subsequent exit from the party in 1999,” Mukherjee wrote.
Pawar, along with PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar, created a sensation at the famous CWC meeting, later quitting Congress to form NCP. The candid opinion, interestingly, came alongside Mukherjee’s positive appraisal of the NCP chief as a politician and minister.
An interesting anecdote pertains to Mukherjee’s trip to Mumbai while campaigning for the post of the President.
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had announced support for Mukherjee despite being part of the rival coalition NDA led by the BJP.
In the book, Mukherjee said Sonia was against his meeting Thackeray but Pawar advised him otherwise and insisted that he visit the Sena chief’s residence.
“Pawar added that Thackeray would consider it a personal insult if I did not meet him during my visit to Mumbai,” recalled the former President.