Pawar as PM? Daughter says thanks, but let’s get real (Interview)

March 27th, 2009 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) She is proud to be her father’s daughter but not one to give in to hype. “I respect the sentiments of those who want my father to be prime minister but we have to be practical,” says Supriya Sule, MP and daughter of Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

She also said her party “has full faith” in Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“We just don’t have the numbers,” Sule told IANS in a telephone interview from Baramati, one of the most developed districts in western Maharashtra and better known as the pocketborough of Pawar. Sule is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Baramati.

Even though Pawar is one of the state’s best-known politicians, Sule said: “We have done the politics of reality and practicality. We are contesting 22 seats in Maharashtra and maybe 35-40 seats in other states like Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

“We don’t have the numbers now. We are now focused on winning the maximum number of seats for our party and our allies,” said 39-year-old Sule, who joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) two years ago.

“We are not opening or closing any doors. Our focus is quite clear: we want the party to grow and we want the party to have an all-India presence,” Sule said. She responded to speculation that the so-called Third Front was reaching out to the NCP and the possibility of Pawar becoming prime minister after the 15th Lok Sabha elections.

“My father was the first to push for Manmohan Singh as prime minister in 2004. We have full faith in him,” Sule said, when asked whether the NCP accepted Manmohan Singh as the prime ministerial candidate of not just the Congress but of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The NCP, which had 11 seats in the 14th Lok Sabha, is part of the Congress-led UPA.

Politics may be part of her family legacy but Sule insisted that she did not join it for the sake of power. She made it clear that she joined it to give broader focus to the social and educational work she has been doing for many years.

When asked why she joined politics, the Rajya Sabha member replied: “Development.”

“In parts of Maharashtra where I am campaigning, there is an acute shortage of water and electricity. I am in politics because I want to make basic infrastructure available to all citizens,” said Sule, a student of microbiology who lived in Singapore for many years before coming back to India and joining politics.

“Development is our party’s chief plank. We have always focused on development, education, healthcare and issues of the disabled. I want every child to get quality education,” said Sule, alluding to Pawar that being in politics is 80 percent public service and 20 percent politicking.

One of the wealthiest politicians in the country - her declared assets are Rs.42 crore (Rs.420 million) - Sule is managing trustee of the Pawar Public Charitable Trust which has been involved in running schools for the poor and tribals for years.

She plans to visit each and every one of the 964 villages in her constituency in Pune district.

A new generation leader, Sule says it’s time for a new kind of politics centred on issues of development and building better infrastructure in the country.

Sule is all for more young people joining politics, but says experience is equally important. “There should be a perfect blend of youth and experience,” she said.

Who are her role models in politics? “My father. He is a man of vision. Indira Gandhi and, of course, Atalji. I have great personal admiration for him,” she said.

How does she rate her chances of winning her father’s pocketborough? “I am hopeful. Let’s see,” replied a cautious Sule. “We are definitely going to do better. We want to win all the seats we contest.”

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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