New Delhi: Veteran politician Sharad Pawar is “not hosting a third front meeting” today, it was clarified shortly before what now appears to be a gathering of politicians and intellectuals to “debate current events”.
Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP leader who recently joined the Trinamool Congress, tweeted last evening that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar was hosting a meeting of his “Rashtra Manch”, a political action group he set up in 2018.
“We shall have a meeting of the Rashtra Manch tomorrow at 4 PM. Sri Sharad Pawar has kindly agreed to host the meeting at his place,” Mr Sinha wrote.
Those associated with the event were at pains to clarify that the gathering has nothing to do with putting together a Third Front to fight Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in the 2024 election.
Besides politicians, “eminent people from various fields” have been invited to the meeting, which diminishes the political heft that it was given at first, when the news broke.
The Manch, which meets regularly, has an open-ended membership, said ex-Janata Dal United leader Pavan Varma, one of its regulars. “We invite members from different parties and walks of life, except the BJP,” Mr Varma said.
The invitees include senior advocate KTS Tulsi, former chief election commissioner SY Qureshi, former ambassador KC Singh, lyricist Javed Akhtar, filmmaker Pritish Nandy, senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves, media personalities Karan Thapar and Ashutosh, said NCP leader Nawab Mallik.
One reason the meeting captured so much political attention yesterday was Mr Pawar’s talks with ace poll strategist Prashant Kishor just before the details came out. This was their second meeting in two weeks and there was furious speculation that a third front was in the making. Mr Pawar is known for his networking skills and has helped cobble many an unlikely coalition.
But hours later, Prashant Kishor distanced himself from the meeting and ruled out any association with an opposition front to take on the BJP in the next general election.
“I don’t believe a Third or Fourth Front could emerge as a successful challenge to the current dispensation,” he told NDTV, adding that the ‘tried and tested’ Third Front model was archaic and not suited to the current political dynamic.
That effectively confirmed that today’s meeting had nothing to do with any strategy talks the two may have had.
Mr Kishor said his one-on-one meetings with the NCP chief were for both men to get to know each other better. They had hardcore political discussions, going state-by-state to explore the possibility of what will work in the fight against the BJP and what won’t, according to the master strategist.
Mr Kishor, who helped craft Mamata Banerjee’s successful Bengal election campaign, said her victory sent a message to all opposition parties that “they too can stand up to the BJP and give them a contest”.