No doubt NCP MP Padamsinh Patil, accused of the murder of Pawanraje Nimbalkar, was once very close to his party chief Sharad Pawar. But in the past few years, Pawar had also been trying to distance himself from the man.
Pawar’s discomfiture with Patil began after a string of allegations of corruption were brought against the latter in 2003.
Patil had been made irrigatin minister in the Maharashtra cabinet after the NCP-Congress coalition form a government for the first time in 1999. But following the allegations, Patil was dropped. In the new government formed in 2004, when the coalition won a second term, Patil did not find a place.
“It was a deliberate decision to keep him out as Pawarsaheb felt the allegations against him were serious,” said a senior Maharashtra NCP minister who did not want to be quoted. “Pawarsaheb feared he might land the party in some unsavoury controversy.”
Pawar's fears have now proved prophetic. However, to keep Patil mollified, he had Patil’s son Rana Jagatsinh Patil inducted as a junior minister in the Maharashtra government.
In party matters too, Pawar had begun to rely less and less on Patil, and more and more on younger leaders like Ajit Pawar and Praful Patel.
But Pawar knew that Patil still had considerable influence in central Maharashtra. To pick up as many Lok Sabha seats as he could he gave Patil the Osmanabad Lok Sabha ticket and Patil duly won.
“It will be interesting to see how Pawar tackles the great embarrassment he is currently facing, especially when the Congress hawks are out to corner the NCP,” said political analyst B.Venkatesh Kumar.