Sharad Pawar

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Relations with the Congress

The Times of India, Dec 13 2015

Rajeev Deshpande

Rajiv wanted to oust me from Maha CM's chair

NCP chief Sharad Pawar says Rajiv Gandhi had initiated a coup against his chief ministership but the plan came a cropper when the legislature party overwhelmingly voted in his favour in 1990. Some Maharashtra Congress bigwigs raised a banner of revolt against his leadership. He says he was sure that while they were acting at the behest of the high command, they had little support on the ground. It triggered a battle of wits between the leadership and the CM and ended in embarrassment for Rajiv Gandhi. He has made these claims in his just released book “On My Terms“.

Interestingly , while he has expressed desire to join hands with Congress again in 2019, Pawar also says that the Gandhis “consider Congress as their family fiefdom“, adding that Sonia Gandhi would not have brooked an independentminded PM, a reason he lost out to Naransimha Rao in 1991.

Ghulam Nabi Azad and G K Moopanar came to Mumbai as central observers for the meeting of the legislature party and the legislators had been told in advance that the “higher ups“ desired a change in leadership.

The observers did not want a vote in the legislature party and preferred individual meetings to gauge the mood ­ what Pawar says “was the usual ploy employed by the high command to muffle the majority view which was inconvenient to them“. But many MLAs and MLCs turn ed hostile to the idea.

Pawar was soon called to Delhi for a meeting with Ra jiv Gandhi who made a query of courtesy “what's happen ing“. Pawar says he replied “You know better than me Everyone in Mumbai acted quite efficiently as per your instructions. However, they unfortunately could not mus ter support.“

Pawar says, Rajiv Gandhi obliquely accepted his role in the aborted coup. “No, no Something went wrong there I had just asked them to shake the tree, not uproot it,“ he re plied. He says he later pressed for the removal of rebels from the state cabinet but Ra jiv Gandhi did not agree.

Issues leading to exit/ 1999

Bypassed, Pawar raked up Sonia's Italian roots: Pranab Mukherjee in book, October 16, 2017: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Targeted her over ‘Italian origin’: Pranab in book

'In 1999 Pawar expected the party to request him, instead of Sonia Gandhi, to stake claim to form the government'


Former President Pranab Mukherjee has said that unfulfilled political ambitions of heading the Congress party may have prompted Maratha satrap Sharad Pawar to revolt against Sonia Gandhi and launch his own outfit NCP.

In his book 'Coalition Years', Mukherjee touched upon the attack orchestrated by Pawar over Sonia's "Italian origin" in a meeting of the Congress working committee in 1999.

According to Mukherjee, Pawar was perhaps slighted by the fact that Congress had asked Sonia to stake claim to form the government after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime fell in a confidence vote. Also, Pawar had been downgraded as an advisor after Sonia took the party reins.

"In my opinion, Pawar, as the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, expected the party to request him, instead of Sonia Gandhi, to stake claim to form the government. After Sonia's elevation as the Congress president, she consulted P Shiv Shankar on all important issues rather than Pawar. This sense of alienation and disenchantment may have been responsible for his statements on Sonia's foreign origin, and his subsequent exit from the party in 1999," Mukherjee wrote.

Pawar, along with PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar, created a sensation at the famous CWC meeting, later quitting Congress to form NCP. The candid opinion, interestingly, came alongside Mukherjee's positive appraisal of the NCP chief as a politician and minister.

An interesting anecdote pertains to Mukherjee's trip to Mumbai while campaigning for the post of the President.

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had announced support for Mukherjee despite being part of the rival coalition NDA led by the BJP.

In the book, Mukherjee said Sonia was against his meeting Thackeray but Pawar advised him otherwise and insisted that he visit the Sena chief's residence. "Pawar added that Thackeray would consider it a personal insult if I did not meet him during my visit to Mumbai," recalled the former President.

1999-2019: Credibility lost and then regained

Abhijit Atre, Maharashtra: Master of twists and turns, Sharad Pawar shows who's the boss, November 27, 2019: The Times of India


What the senior Pawar achieved by overseeing the downfall of the three-day-old government in the state is not limited to establishing that he is the undisputed boss of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and that he has the ability to take on the Chanakyas of the saffron parties. His winning, chess-like moves during the fluid political situation in the state gave him the opportunity to reclaim his credibility.

He has been a rebel himself; it was a rebellion by him that dented his credibility early on in his political career when he became chief minister of the state at the age of 38. Now, it is the quelling of the rebellion by his nephew which may help him regain the "trust factor" that has been missing from his brand of politics. For many years now, Pawar has been dubbed the "unpredictable politician". "When he says yes, he means no," his critics say.

Pawar broke away from the Congress in 1999 while questioning Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin. But he joined hands with the same party later in a post-poll alliance and even gave public speeches justifying how, according to Indian tradition, a daughter-in-law becomes part of the family, irrespective of her origins. In the run-up to the 2014 assembly polls, he vehemently campaigned against the BJP, terming it a "communal party". But after the election results, he offered the BJP unconditional outside support, scuttling the Sena's chances of driving a hard bargain for ministerial berths in the government. This time around, he has cast the NCP's lot with the Sena, arguing that the need of the hour is to keep a "non-secular" party like the BJP away from power.

Pawar has sometimes offered justifications for his moves and even his critics have occasionally endorsed his change in stance and strategy, but nothing has helped erase the "unpredictability" stamp on him. Late veteran journalist Govind Talwalkar, who witnessed the 1978 political coup by Pawar, had written in 'Maharashtra Times' a decade ago that Pawar did not backstab Vasantdada Patil as was made out by the media, including himself.

When Ajit took oath as deputy chief minister, the suspicion that he may have done so on the directives of his uncle lingered throughout the day. This despite the senior Pawar tweeting that assuming office was Ajit's personal decision.

Such has been the apprehension about the NCP chief that a senior Congress leader said that he had conveyed to the party high command his niggling doubt that Pawar would double-cross them. The Congress had, therefore, taken time to come on board with the NCP and Shiv Sena.

The Congress politician cannot be blamed for harbouring doubts about Pawar. In his five-decade-long political career, Pawar has switched parties in the quest for power and, when needed, even amended his stand on issues.

This time around, Pawar has remained true to his word given to the Sena and the Congress. He was at the forefront of countering 'Operation Lotus' and was able to make his nephew fall in line. This may help him regain that elusive trust but it comes when the Maratha strongman is set to celebrate his 80th birthday next month (December 12) and after over 50 years in politics. And yet, there are several who still say they can't predict what he has up his sleeve next.

2019: NCP does well in assembly elections

In 2019 Pawar’s NCP did well in the assembly elections
From: October 26, 2019: The Times of India


See graphic:

In 2019 Pawar’s NCP did well in the assembly elections

2019: Sharad still calls the shots

November 29, 2019: Times now News


With Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray now sworn in as Maharashtra Chief Minister, the Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party can savour this moment. While it remains to be seen whether the NCP and Congress will be able to set aside their ideological differences with the Sena in the implementation of a governance agenda for Maharashtra, the decision of Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamana, to bestow the title of ‘margdarshak’ to NCP head, Sharad Pawar, already suggests that the three-time chief minister may be crucial in holding the alliance together.

The victory of the alliance also marks the return of the Pawar family to the heart of Maharashtra's politics. With the Pawar machine back at centre stage, we take a look at its key members.


Sharad Pawar

Widely recognised as one of the most experienced and canniest politicians in the country, Sharad Pawar (78) has held the post of Maharasthra chief minister on three different occasions but not since the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party in June 1999. Pawar had worked as Minister of Agriculture in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government until 2012 and opted not to contest in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Pawar had been the Leader of the Opposition since the UPA’s loss in the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections. However, with the three-pronged alliance now coming to power, the goodwill Pawar enjoys in Maharashtra will be essential to the success of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition.


Ajit Pawar

The nephew of Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar (60) is a possible candidate to become the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra later this week. Ajit entered politics in 1982 and served as an MP from the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency in 1991. After his uncle Sharad Pawar started contesting from the seat, Ajit has won from the Baramati (Vidhan Sabha) constituency since 1995. In 2012, Ajit faced allegations of corruption pertaining to his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of funds up to Rs 70,000 crore while he was the state’s deputy chief minister.


Supriya Sule

Supriya Sule (50) is the daughter of NCP chief Sharad Pawar and is currently serving as an MP in the Lok Sabha having been elected from the Baramati constituency (historically the seat of her father and cousin). Sule is particularly known for running a state-wide campaign against female foeticide for which she won the Mumbai Women of the Decade Achievers Award. She is married to Sadanand Sule.


Rohit Pawar

Rohit Pawar (34) is the grandson of Sharad Pawar and is being reportedly groomed to take up leadership positions in the NCP. He contested his first election during the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections and won from the constituency of Karjat-Jamkhed. Rohit is also the CEO of Baramati Agro Ltd. and has a Bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Mumbai.


Parth Pawar

Parth Pawar (29) is the son of Ajit Pawar and grandnephew of Sharad Pawar. Although lacking any real political experience, Parth contested his first election in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from the Maval constituency. He, however, lost to Shiv Sena candidate Shrirang Barne. It has been reported that while Ajit was confident his son would emerge a winner, Sharad Pawar had expressed reluctance to field Parth.

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