Those who know how Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar operates were surprised when he stopped going to office and chose not to attend cabinet meetings or UPA functions for more than a week. Pawar is known as a workaholic and a politician who avoids tokenism; he never visits bomb blast or accident sites immediately after the incident because he doesn’t want to hinder rescue work.
So when he took these extreme steps to protest against the Congress, which he believes is not taking him and his party into confidence while running the central government, many people, even in the NCP, were surprised. They were even more taken aback when he called a truce after the Congress promised to set up a coordination committee, which will ostensibly ensure that all parties in the ruling coalition are involved in decision-making.
Going by talk in the NCP, two issues have made Pawar unhappy. First, he feels he will no longer be in a respectable position when Rahul Gandhi takes control of the Congress. Second, he and his nephew Ajit Pawar are running out of patience with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who seems to have discovered the art of torturing the NCP in Maharashtra. NCP leaders say Pawar had complained about Chavan to the Congress leadership a few months ago and had been promised that the issue he had raised would be resolved. That has not happened.
Officially, we have no news of what other issues Pawar raised, but nobody in the state’s political circles is ready to believe that Pawar fought with the Congress only for a coordination committee. Congress functionaries claim that Pawar beat a retreat when he realised that the central government could give him trouble if he pulled out the ruling coalition, but Pawar’s NCP colleagues suggest the episode isn’t over yet.
If Chavan is called back to the union cabinet after a few months, the NCP will claim credit for it. Or perhaps the Centre might yet take steps to pacify the warlord from Baramati. Surely, the public should know why a constituent of the ruling coalition both in the centre and the state was unhappy and what deal the Congress struck with it?
Who will be number one?
There is much rejoicing in the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena over the Thackeray cousins’ emotional reconciliation. Except the top leaders, who have their vested interests, both the parties’ rank and file want Uddhav and Raj to reunite. Sena shakhas and MNS offices are busy calculating how many assembly seats the two can win together. But the big question doing the rounds is whether Raj will merge his MNS with Sena. Moreover, if that happens, who will be the merged entity’s number 1?
Nobody seems to have the answer. The answer to the first question likely depends on the reply to the second.