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HomeEditorialSharad Pawar: The iron man of Maharashtra-Part - I

Sharad Pawar: The iron man of Maharashtra-Part – I

Poor Mr. Sharad Pawar is undergoing pain after he was slapped, I don’t think he will ever forget the noise and hard hitting pain of it. Anyway Pawar was hurt again with the statements made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh’s statement on UPA allies has caused “pain and unease” to us, NCP chief and Union minister Sharad Pawar said. Singh had referred to the challenges that a coalition government faces when making policy and other decisions. He had said difficult decisions were getting “more difficult” because of coalition compulsions. The statement came in the backdrop of the Congress-led UPA government facing stiff opposition from allies over various measures. Congress soft-pedalled NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s remarks expressing anguish over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying difficult decisions become more difficult in coalition politics.

Pawar is having enormous grassroots knowledge. He knows every district and Taluka of Maharashtra upside down and knows everything good and bad about each and every politician. Pawar is known to be a great talent-spotter. He was the one who suggested a political career for Sub-Inspector Sushilkumar Shinde way back in 1973 and Shinde became Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He also convinced and encouraged Chhagan Bhujbal to quit the Shiv Sena and join the Congress in December 1990, giving Shiv Sena leader BalThackeray a big jolt. Bhujbal later became deputy chief minister of Maharashtra.

Sharadchandra GovindRao Pawar left Congress and formed his own party, the Nationalist Congress Party. He has been actively involved in the affairs of United Nations and World Health Organization. He represented India as a leader of Disaster Management Team for United Nations. He also has an impressive record with United Nations for excellent management of recovering Latur from an earthquake within a short time. “Marquis Who`s Who” is a US publisher of a number of books containing short biographical sketches of celebrated persons, describes influential world leaders over the last 100 years. Biography of Sharad Pawar has been enlisted in “Marquis Who`s Who”. Only three other Indian politicians i.e., P. V. Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and Shankarrao Chavan have been included in this contemporary biographical library. This Maratha strongman was born on 12th December 1940 in Katewadi village in Pune District. He leads the NCP in the Lok Sabha. He has a prominent place in Indian national politics. He is known as uncrowned king of Maharashtra politics. He currently is a Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution representing the undivided Congress Party. In 1967 he made his first entry to the Maharashtra legislative assembly from Baramati. In 1961, Yashwantrao Chavan became the first Chief Minister of Maharashtra after the division of Bombay province into two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat and subsequently Deputy Prime Minister of India.

Yashwantrao Chavan was a political mentor of Sharad Pawar. Pawar broke away from the Congress to form an alliance government with Janata party. In February 1980 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi returned to power at the centre and this Progressive Democratic Front government was dismissed. In the elections that followed, the Congress party won the majority seats in the state assembly and A.R. Antulay, took over as the chief minister of the state. Pawar remained a opposition leader in the state assembly. For the first time, he won Lok Sabha election from Baramati parliamentary constituency in 1984. He also won in assembly election of March 1985 from Baramati. He preferred to continue in state politics and resigned from the Lok Sabha. In 1985 elections, while his Congress (S) won 54 seats out of 288 in the state assembly, he became the leader of the opposition. In 1987, Pawar decided to return to the Congress(I) fold after being out of it for over nine years. In June 1988, with the induction of Prime Minister and Congress President Rajiv Gandhi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Shankarrao Chavan was inducted as Union Cabinet as Finance Minister and Sharad Pawar was chosen to replace Chavan as chief minister.

Pawar had the task of checking the rise of the Shiv Sena in state politics, which was a potential challenge to the dominance of Congress party in the state. In 1989 Lok Sabha elections, Congress party won 28 seats out of 48 in Maharashtra. Though the Congress party maintained a respectable place in the state and was not routed as in some other states like Rajasthan and Gujarat. It meant a loss of 15 seats compared to 1984. In February 1990, in the state assembly elections Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party provided a stiff challenge to the Congress. Though the Congress managed to retain power, it fell short of an absolute majority in the state assembly for the first time, winning 141 seats out 288. Pawar was sworn in as chief minister again on March 4, 1990 with the support of 12 independent MLAs. He led the campaign for the Congress for the mid-term parliamentary elections of 1991 in Maharashtra. As a result the Congress bettered its performance by winning 38 seats out of 48 in the state. During the course of election campaign, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. There were rumours pertaining to Pawar`s name being considered for the Prime Minister`s post along with those of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Arjun Singh. However the Congress Parliamentary Party elected P.V. Narasimha Rao as its leader and he was sworn in as Prime Minister on June 21, 1991.

Sharad Pawar became Defence Minister and continued till March 1993. After Pawar`s successor in Maharashtra, Sudhakarrao Naik stepped down, Rao sent Pawar back as chief minister of the state. He was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth and most controversial term in March 6, 1993. Almost immediately, Mumbai, the financial capital of India and the state capital of Maharashtra, was rocked with series of bomb blasts on March 12, 1993. G.R. Khairnar, the Deputy Commissioner of then 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 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. The opposition parties 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 in the march of Gowari tribes people at Nagpur on November 23, 1994, in which 123 people were killed. The protest march was held to demand reservations in educational institutes and jobs. Allegations were made that the mishap occurred because 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.

(This is the first part of the edit and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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