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HomeEditorialMaharashtra Politics: What Sharad Pawar started once ended with him

Maharashtra Politics: What Sharad Pawar started once ended with him

Many stalwarts of the Congress rebelled and joined Pawar’s NCP. That incident was a big jolt for the then-ruling party. Those days, Pawar succeeded in breaking Congress; now his nephew Ajit has given him back in the same way.

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A major rebellion in Maharashtra politics began with Sharad Pawar in 1999, after the 12th Lok Sabha was dissolved and elections to the 13th Lok Sabha were called. Pawar, P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar demanded that the party propose someone native-born as the prime ministerial candidate and not the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, who had entered party politics and replaced Kesri as Congress president. That was when Pawar and Sangma founded the Nationalist Congress Party in June 1999. 

Despite the falling out, the new party aligned with the Congress party to form a coalition government in Maharashtra after the 1999 state assembly elections to prevent the Shiv Sena-BJP combine from returning to power. Pawar, however, did not return to state politics, and Vilasrao Deshmukh of the Congress was chosen as chief minister, with Chagan Bhujbal representing the NCP as deputy chief minister. Many stalwarts of the Congress rebelled and joined Pawar’s NCP. That incident was a big jolt for the then-ruling party. Those days, Pawar succeeded in breaking Congress; now his nephew Ajit has given him back in the same way.

Very strategically and without any hint, eight MLAs, including Ajit Pawar, took oath as ministers in the Shinde-Fadnavis government after a split in the NCP. After that, Sharad Pawar suspended all the main leaders of the Ajit Pawar group from their positions in the party. After that, Ajit Pawar’s group directly sued the NCP itself. A total of 32 MLAs show their support to Ajit; tomorrow, if a few more join his camp, he can retain both his name and symbol. Ajit Pawar’s group needs three to four more MLAs to escape the action of the Defection Act. Therefore, if MLAs Rajesh Tope, Sunil Bhusara, and Chetan Tupe join the Ajit Pawar group, it will be a big political blow to the NCP. Due to this, the political movement in Mumbai between the NCP and the Ajit Pawar group has gained momentum.

The general sentiment is that a few months down the line, the frictions will only increase and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will eventually attempt to lead the government. Shinde’s self-boasting advertisement claiming that he is the most popular leader has not gone well with the BJP; Ajit and other leaders’ induction into the party may damage Shinde’s prospects. In a meeting held at Varsha bungalow, many of his MLAs expressed their disappointment openly; a few of them even quarreled with each other. The development in Maharashtra seems very interesting. Ajit Pawar reported having the support of exactly 40 MLAs, which Eknath Shinde had when he joined hands with the BJP. Just think that Shinde and Ajit Pawar are both part of the government in Maharashtra; it will be more of the government of the Shiv Sena and NCP. It could be possible that 40 or so MLAs in Congress will also be bought over. This means there will be no opposition in Maharashtra.

Not bad; perhaps we are heading towards One India, One Party, then possibly One India, Lifetime PM. I wonder what Shinde will do if the BJP offers the CM post to Ajit Pawar in the future. The BJP seems very desperate to save its prospects in 2024. Meanwhile, the PM wants a huge number of MPs in his camp, looking at the 2024 elections. Moreover, Devendra has not forgotten the betrayal and humiliation caused to him by Uddhav Thackrey and Pawar. After serving for five days as Chief Minister during the 2019 Maharashtra political crisis, he had to resign on November 28, 2019.

In 1978, Sharad Pawar ran the rainbow coalition comprising the Janata Party and the Peasants Workers Party, which lasted less than two years. Incidentally, he is trying to forge a similar alliance in the state by joining hands with the Congress and the Shiv Sena. Now Ajit Pawar breaking the NCP is seen as Sharad Pawar’s master plan, and his nephew is a pawn in his hand.

When Ajit Pawar was made Deputy Chief Minister on Saturday morning, only to be snubbed by Sharad Pawar, who said the decision to support the BJP was not supported by him and was his nephew’s personal one, In fact, Sharad Pawar’s decision in 1978 to establish his own party and run it for a decade earned him the unofficial title of “strongman” in political circles. Sharad Pawar wrote in his book “On My Terms” that the poll reverses the 1977 post-Emergency anti-Indira Gandhi wave that shocked many in the state and the country. VN Gadgil lost on a Congress ticket in Baramati, the home turf of the Pawars.

In January 1978, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi split the Congress, forming the Congress (Indira) to take on the parent organization, the Congress (S), headed by Sardar Swarn Singh, in the state elections. Sharad Pawar stayed with the Congress (S) and his mentor, Yashwantrao Chavan. In the assembly polls held a month later, the Congress (S) won 69 seats as against 65 for the Congress (I). The Janata Party won 99 seats. However, no party got a full majority. The two factions of the Congress got together to form the government, headed by Vasantdada Patil from the Congress (S) and Nashikrao Tirpude from the Congress (I) as the deputy Chief minister. However, the bickering between the two Congress factions continued, which made it difficult to run the government. Sharad Pawar decided to quit. His relations with Janata Party president Chandrashekar helped him. Sharad Pawar walked out with 38 Congress MLAs to form a new government called the Samantar Congress (Parallel Congress). He then became the youngest chief minister of the state at the age of 38. However, with the return of Indira Gandhi to power in 1980, his government was dismissed.

Now Ajit Pawar’s joining the Maharashtra government as the deputy chief minister shocked everyone in the state, including many MLAs of the Eknath Shinde faction, who once again find themselves in the exact dilemma they faced in 2019 when Uddhav Thackeray decided to ally with the NCP and the Congress. There are many concerns that have created unrest in the Shinde camp. The loss of monopoly as the only party the BJP could rely upon to stay in power led NCP leaders to be inducted into the state government, while the expansion of the Shinde-Fadnavis cabinet was long due to incorporating many from the Sena who were promised berths last year. Dilemma over joining hands with those they were wrestling with even while being in the MVA Having to make more compromises than promised when it comes to sharing seats in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections scheduled for 2024. Fear that Ajit Pawar will meddle and interfere to create hurdles for them like he allegedly did in the MVA government.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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