Yesterday, I made you aware about Sharad Pawar’s journey from his induction to Maharashtra Politics till he became Chief Minister for the third time on 6th March, 1993, when Mumbai was worst affected by riots. Within a week of his swearing in, a serial blast jolted the financial capital of the country. Now, I’m taking you further.
After the blast, a series of accusations took place by different people against Pawar. G.R. Khairnar, then Deputy Commissioner at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, made a series of accusations against Pawar for being involved in corruption and protecting the criminals. Though, Khairnar had failed to produce any evidence in support of his claims, it inevitably affected Pawar’s popularity. Nevertheless, a notable social worker Anna Hazare started a fast unto death to demand expulsion of 12 officers of the Forest department of Government of Maharashtra, who had been accused of corruption. Opposition accused Pawar’s government of trying to shield the corrupt officers. Further, there was a sex scandal at Jalgaon in which a number of young girls were subjected to sexual abuse, which expanded to involve local municipal corporators belonging to Congress. To make matters worse for the Congress party, there was a stampede during the march of Gowari tribes’ people at Nagpur on November 23, 1994, in which 123 people were killed. The protest march had been to demand for reservations in educational institutes and jobs. Allegations were made that the mishap occurred because then welfare minister Madhukarrao Pichad did not meet the delegation of the Vanjara people in time. Though, Pichad stepped down owing moral responsibility for the mishap, this incident was another setback to Sharad Pawar’s government.
The elections to the Vidhan Sabha were due to be held in 1995. The Shiv Sena and BJP combine was leading in the polls, and there was widespread rebellion in the Congress party. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine won 138 seats while Congress party retained only 80 seats in the state assembly. Sharad Pawar had to step down and Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi took over as chief minister on March 14, 1995. Till the Lok Sabha elections of 1996, Sharad Pawar served as the Leader of the Opposition in State Legislative Council. In the 1996 General elections, he won from Baramati and has not returned to the State Assembly since. In June 1997, he unsuccessfully challenged Sitaram Kesri for the post of Congress President. In the mid-term parliamentary elections of 1998, Sharad Pawar not only won from his constituency Baramati but also led the Congress to a significant win in Maharashtra. His move to join forces with Republican Party of India (Athvale) and Samajwadi Party brought rich dividends and the Congress party and allies won 37 seats out of 48 in the state. Sharad Pawar served as Leader of Opposition in 12th Lok Sabha. In June 1999, Pawar and Sangma founded the Nationalist Congress Party. His party had to form alliance with the Congress party to form a coalition government in Maharashtra as neither party could win an absolute majority on its own in the 1999 assembly elections. Pawar, however, did not return to state politics, and Vilasrao Deshmukh of the Congress was chosen as Chief Minister, with Chagan Bhujbal representing the Nationalist Congress Party as his deputy. The alliance has endured at the national and state level to this day. Sharad Pawar joined the United Progressive Alliance government headed by Manmohan Singh as the Minister for Agriculture and Food after 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Unlike many other politicians, Pawar also believes in entrepreneurship and attracting foreign investment. But Pawar has failed to expand his base beyond western Maharashtra.
Pawar put Baramati on Maharashtra’s political map. Baramati was a rural, agricultural region until he came to the scene. Today, his constituency is one of the most industrialised in western Maharashtra. And though Baramati has always received scanty rainfall, the water management scheme launched by Pawar back in 1970 ensures even today that the region is not affected when the rest of the state is suffering from a drought. Thanks to this work, Pawar’s victory in Baramati is always a foregone conclusion. He won the seat by a huge margin in 1984, when the tidal wave of sympathy for the late Indira Gandhi washed away even stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In fact, Pawar’s election campaign in Baramati is usually restricted to one public meeting on the last day. This leaves him a lot of time to campaign for his party’s candidates elsewhere in the state.
With such a solid base, Pawar has been able to retain his influence even when he has been out of the Congress, like in the period from 1978 to 1986, or now, after forming the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999.
Pawar has the image of being untrustworthy. His abandoning his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan to win power continues to haunt him. He has also been involved in his fair share of controversies, including the Enron fiasco. It was his government that cleared the Enron project in 1993.
Recently, with change in political equation in Maharashtra, Pawar and Fadnavis both have become hot topic on social media. Pawar has bent down maximum to BJP and made them do what they denied to do. Decisive and witty posts across the social media are targeting Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Most of these posts are about the perceived understanding between BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) during the trust vote in the state Assembly. The Fadnavis government won the trust vote on Wednesday by a voice vote. NCP members abstained from voting, paving way for the new government to win the vote of confidence. Even though BJP claimed that it did not take support of NCP to sail through the trust vote, it seemed there was a tacit understanding between the two parties. Acting on NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s direction, his party MLAs abstained from voting, which clearly helped BJP win the confidence motion by a voice vote. And this has enraged a lot of people who slammed the new BJP government. Soon after the Fadnavis government won the trust vote in the Assembly, comments and images began to appear on Twitter and Facebook criticising the way the BJP government won the trust vote. Similar type of comments and images started circulating through WhatsApp as well.
One of the posts that went viral read: “Sharad Pawar ka Aashirwad, Chalo Chale Modi ke Saath (With Sharad Pawar’s blessings let’s move ahead with Modi). The message was clearly a take on BJP’s election slogan (Chhatrapati Shivaji Cha Ashirvad, Chalo Chale Modi Ke Saath) for the Maharashtra Assembly elections which was about moving ahead with Prime Minister Modi along with blessings of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Meanwhile, Congress and Shiv Sena are trying to show that trust vote is a farce or anti constitutional. However, same Congress under Manmohan Singh’s regime brought MPs from jail to vote for ruling party at the time of no-confidence motion, was that fair? Congress’ hypocrisy is exposed again. They lost election and could not digest BJP’s success. Anyways, jokes apart, it is all about numbers. And being a minority government, BJP was left with no choice but to be blessed by NCP and in this give and take relationship, BJP has to save NCP’s corrupt leaders. Here is all politics without ethics. Where our Indian politics are heading, God knows better!