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   The big question in Congress circles right now is... (July 19, 1996)

The big question in Congress circles right now is whether Mr. Sharad Pawar is pro-Narasimha Rao or anti-Narasimha Rao. Nobody seems to know. So the chief told me: "Meet Sharadrao and find out where he stands."

So I fixed an appointment with Mr. Pawar and called on him. "We would like to know whether you are with Mr. Rao or against him," I said.

"We are all Congressmen, where is the question of being with or against anybody. Narasimhaji is our leader."

"I am glad you have cleared that," I said. "Then I can say you want him to continue as Congress president."

"Who am I to say whether he should continue or not, he is the president," Mr. Pawar said.

"Yes, it is the same thhing, but I would like you to be specific," I said. "I am write that you are not trying to replace him as party president?"

"You may write what you like, but it is not for me to say whether I should replace him or not. It is for the party to decide."

"Let us get this clear," I said. "If the party says you should replace Mr. Rao, you will replace him."

"I am only a foot soldier of the Congress, if it says I should be the Congress president, I have to accept," Mr. Pawar said. "But there is no reason to replace Mr.Rao, I have nothing against his continuing as president."

"Then you are with Mr. Rao and against Mr. Balram Jakhar and Mr. Karunanidhi and others who are against Mr. Rao," I said. "I can write that."

"As I said earlier, you can writer what you like," Mr. Pawar said. "But as Congressmen we have to think of the party as a whole, not this faction or that faction."

"Yes, yes, that's all right," I said. "Just tell me, once and for all, do you want Mr.Rao to stay or go."

"I cannot decide for Narasimhaji, he is a senior member of the party. What is required is that the party's interests should be kept in the forefront, nothing should be done to harm that."

"Of course," I said. "Now, tell me, are you with Mr. Pranab Mukherjee or are you with Mr. Rajesh Pilot?"

"I am with the Congress, we are all with the Congress," Mr. Pawar said. "Even Mr. Narasimha Raoji is with the Congress."

"I know you are all with the Congress," I said. "But within the Congress, I want to know whether you are with Mr. Rao or you are with the dissidents."

"There are no dissidents in the Congress," Mr. Pawar said. "There may be some differences of opinion, but no dissidence."

"This is becoming difficult," I said. "Just answer, you are pro-Rao or anti-Rao?"

"I am pro-Congress," Mr. Pawar said. "But you write what you like."

So, when I returned to the office and the chief asked me how it went, I said: "He told me, I can write what I like."

"That is no way to do an interview," the chief said.

 
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