Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, who established the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 20 years ago and brought it in power forging coalition with the Congress in Maharashtra, is facing tough time just ahead of the state Assembly elections. The NCP leaders, who deserted the party, are being called the opportunists as they chose power rather than being loyal to Pawar.
This desertion started after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, after the landslide victory of the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, this process is on its zenith with mass defection. Recently, MLAs Shivendrasinh Bhosale, Sandeep Naik, and Vaibhav Pichad and the party’s state women wing president Chitra Wagh joined the ruling BJP, whereas Mumbai NCP president Sachin Ahir and Shahapur MLA Pandurang Barora joined the Shiv Sena which is the ruling alliance partner in the state government.
Unfazed with these desertions, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has extended his best wishes to them. Although Pawar claimed that he has experiences of tackling such situation, the recent defections of NCP lawmakers and leaders will have a major impact on the upcoming Assembly elections definitely.
It is remarkable that the NCP MLAs and leaders, who switched loyalty to the BJP-Shiv Sena, pleaded that they were unable to carry out public works while being on the opposition benches. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who has been eyeing a bigger role at the Centre, suddenly staggered at home pitch. Sharad Pawar accused Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other BJP ministers of committing themselves to poaching leaders from other parties before the Assembly elections. He also accused the ruling BJP of misusing probe agencies and state-run financial bodies to compel leaders to join their fold. The ED had recently raided the house of NCP leader Hassan Mushrif at Kagal in Kolhapur in connection with alleged misappropriation of funds in the local sugar mill controlled by him.
Sharad Pawar alleged that Kagal NCP MLA Hasan Mushrif was also made an offer by the BJP, but when he refused, the income tax department carried out raids at his premises in Kolhapur. He said, “Chitra Wagh told me that there are some criminal cases against her husband. In addition to that, an ACB (anti-corruption bureau) inquiry has been initiated against their cooperative institution. That is why she asked me to give her permission to join the BJP.”
These defectors are known as the opponents of NCP’s second-in-command Ajit Pawar. They have sent a signal that all is not well in the Pawar clan. Sharad Pawar seems to be keen on pursuing the defectors to remain in the party; on the other hand, Ajit has not shown any interest in talking to them. DP Tripathi, NCP General Secretary said, “NCP leaders are leaving the party and joining BJP is a case of opportunism.”
Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson stated, “Those who have quit the party are opportunists. Party will not come to an end if any leader quits it. If the leaders are leaving, then new leaders will replace them. BJP has lost confidence in its own party leaders, hence, they are poaching other outfits’ leaders.”
After poaching jibe, CM Devendra Fadnavis hit back at Sharad Pawar. He said, “Sharad Pawar should introspect on why his people are not ready to stay with the NCP. The stand of the BJP is very clear. A lot of leaders from the Congress and NCP are interested in joining the BJP; however, a very few will be allowed to join. Those with ED cases will not be taken. We do not need such people.”
Maharashtra BJP President Chandrakant Patil also refuted the allegation. He said, “The leaders from other parties are coming to us because they are convinced that we treat everyone equally. How is it possible for the ED to raid everyone without any concrete evidence? We are an inclusive party. We have kept our doors open for anyone who wants to join.” BJP Minister Girish Mahajan claimed that more than 50 MLAs of the Congress and the NCP are in touch with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
As per reports, NCP MLAs Sandeep Naik (Airoli, Navi Mumbai), Vaibhav Pichad (Akole, Ahmednagar) and Shivendrasingh Bhosale (Satara) and Chitra Wagh along with Congress MLA (Naigaon, Mumbai) Kalidas Kolambkar joined the BJP. Shivendra Raje Bhosale said that he would switch sides as it was not possible for him to get development works done in his constituency while remaining in the opposition. Kolambkar and Naik echoed him. However, sources said the reason behind their defections is more personal than the issue of development.
Shivendrasingh Bhosale had called on NCP chief Sharad Pawar last week to apprise him on his issues with the party. He feels that he is being neglected by the top leaders. Sharad Pawar had played a mediator in bringing him close to his estranged cousin Udayan Raje Bhosale, the MP of Satara, but that has not impressed him.
Sandeep Naik’s is a similar case. He along with his heavyweight father Ganesh Naik and brother of former MP Sanjeev Naik have been sidelined by the NCP leadership in spite of their substantial influential in Navi Mumbai. The mass defections have come as a big jolt to the NCP which barely managed to retain its tally of four in the Lok Sabha elections. With the Naiks leaving the party, the NCP will be wiped off Navi Mumbai. The party has already lost relevance in Mumbai and Thane after its Mumbai chief Sachin Ahir joined Shiv Sena last week. In Thane, the NCP has been reduced to a bunch of leaders, who are facing charges of inciting a builder Suraj Parmar for suicide.
Vijay Panchal, a resident of Andheri in a chat with Afternoon Voice about NCP’s recent defections, expressed, “Mass defections are wrong. Leaders should avoid this practice as the old party has given them name and fame. They must not forget it. Above all, joining a ruling party means they are opportunists. If defections from opposition to the ruling party continue, there will be no opposition in the country. It means, one-party rule will be established in India and it will be an autocracy. So, defections from the NCP are not good for Indian democracy.”
Suraj Chandran, a resident of Borivali said, “Many NCP leaders are quitting the party to join BJP. These party leaders have initially remained loyal to the party. Sharad Pawar should take steps to revive the party to regain the confidence of his party leaders.”
Adil Shirgaonkar, a resident of Goregaon said, “We are common men. If the leaders of one party join another party, we have nothing to do with it. Whoever will be in power, the government must function. The nation should progress. In democracy, opposition is also necessary. Without competitors, there will be no race.”
Sharad Pawar’s Political Journey so far
In 1967 he was the:
Member of Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra
Congress Legislature Party’s Secretary in Maharashtra
Pradesh Congress Committee’s General Secretary in Maharashtra
From 1972 to 1974 he was the Minister of State of Government of Maharashtra for Food, Home, Civil Supplies, Publicity, Rehabilitation, Sports and Youth Welfare.
From 1974 to 1978 he was the Cabinet Minister of Agriculture, Home, Education, Industries, Youth Welfare and Labour under the Government of Maharashtra.
From 1978 to 1980 he was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
From 1981 to 1986 he was the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra.
From 1982 to 1987 he was the President of Congress (S).
In 1984 he was elected to the 8th Lok Sabha but he resigned in March 1985.
From 1988 to 1991 he was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
In 1991 he was again elected to the 10th Lok Sabha.
From 1991 to 1993 he served as the Defence Minister.
From 1993 to 1995 he was a member of the Legislative Council of Maharashtra. He became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
From 1995 to 1996 he was made the Leader of Opposition of the Legislative Council of Maharashtra.
In 1996 he was re-elected for the third term in the 11th Lok Sabha.
From 1996 to 1997 he held memberships in Committee on Environment and Forests and Committee on Science and Technology.
In 1998 he was elected as a member of the 12th Lok Sabha for the fourth term. He was made the Leader of Opposition.
From 1998 to 1999 he was a member of:
Committee on External Affairs and its Sub-Committee-II
General Purposes Committee
Ministry of Human Resource Development’s Consultative Committee
In 1999, he was elected for the fifth time to the 13th Lok Sabha. He became the Leader of NCP in Parliament.
From 1999 to 2000 he was the member of the General Purposes Committee and the Committee on Agriculture.
From 2000 to 2001 he was the member of the Committee on Ethics.
From 2001 to 2004 he was the Vice Chairman of the National Committee on Disaster Management. He was also the Leader of NCP in the Lok Sabha.
In 2004 he was elected for the sixth time to the 14th Lok Sabha.
From 23 May 2004, he became the Union Cabinet Minister for Consumer Affairs, Public Distribution, Agriculture and Food. He was also the Vice President of the Parliamentary Forum on Water Conservation and Management.
In 2009 he was elected for the seventh time as a member to the 15th Lok Sabha.
From 31 May 2009 to 18 January 2011 he was the Union Cabinet Minister for Consumer Affairs, Public Distribution, Agriculture and Food. He was again made the Leader of NCP in Parliament in the Lok Sabha.
From 19 January 2011, he is the Union Cabinet Minister for Food Processing Industries and Agriculture.
Positions held in by Sharad Pawar
In the field of social and cultural activities, his roles include:
President of Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune, Nehru Centre in Mumbai, Vidya Pratishthan, Baramati in Pune, Rayat Shikshan Sanstha in Satara, Agriculture Development Trust in Baramati, Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan in Mumbai.
In the field of Sports, he was the President of Garware Club House, Maharashtra Kustigir Parishad, Maharashtra Olympic Association, Mumbai Cricket Association, International Cricket Council (ICC). He was also the Chairman of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Head of Maharashtra Kabbadi Association and Maharashtra Kho Kho Association.
Awards won by Sharad Pawar
Outstanding Parliamentarian Award, 2003 from the then President of India Pratibha Patil.
Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan, Detroit, U.S.A bestowed him with an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Humanities.
Book Published on Sharad Pawar: Fast Forward, a book containing a collection of the speeches given by Sharad Pawar was released in 2008 by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Manmohan Singh.
Controversies surrounding Sharad Pawar
Sharad Pawar’s name was referred by Abdul Karim Telgi in the six hundred billion rupees stamp paper scam in a narco analysis that was captured by different Indian news channels.
The Bharatiya Janata Party demanded Sharad Pawar’s resignation in 2007, alleging his involvement in a multi-crores scam related to wheat imports.
The Bombay High Court on 27 October 2007 served notices to the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation and also to the organisations led by Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and his son-in-law Sadanand Sule to cite reasons for providing special privileges to him and his family.
It was alleged in 2010 that Pawar and his family members hold 16 per cent stake in City Corporation, a company that had bid an amount of Rs 1176 crores for Pune franchise in the IPL. The Pawars, however, denied the allegations.
Pawar was highly criticised and accused as Cabinet Minister of Agriculture for not being able to handle the price rise of agricultural products.
Sharad Chandra Govindrao Pawar, mostly known as Sharad Pawar, is the founder and President of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) since 1999, after disassociating from the Indian National Congress. In his political career, Sharad Pawar has held key positions both in state politics and at the national level. He has served as Chief Minister of Maharashtra and also as Defence Minister of India. He was the Minister of Agriculture under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Indian National Congress. He represented the Madha constituency of Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha and leads the Nationalist Congress Party delegation.
Sharad Pawar was born on 12 December 1940 to Govindrao Pawar and Shardabai Pawar. His father worked with Baramati Farmers’ Cooperative, also known as Sahakari Kharedi Vikri Sangh, and his mother used to take care of the family farm about 10 km away from Baramati at Katewadi. Sharad Pawar has five brothers and four sisters. He was educated in a school under the Maharashtra Education Society. He studied in Pune at the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce under the Pune University.
Sharad Pawar married Pratibha Shinde on August 1, 1967; they have a daughter Supriya, who is married to Sadanand Sule and is presently a member of the 15th Lok Sabha, representing the constituency of Baramati in Maharashtra.