It's a blessing in disguise
There is not much in politics that is beyond the considerable acumen of NCP chief Sharad Pawar. And it is a testimony to this that he has kept his fractious family's differences under control for the last three years. But things are unravelling now. His nephew, Maharashtra's deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who has now resigned, is tiring of Sharad Pawar's constant refrain that a political heir in the NCP — "whoever he may be" — will rise from the grassroots, that there is no need for him to pick or declare one. Of late, the female gender has been added to that refrain: "Whoever he or she may be." That is writing on the wall to Ajit Pawar who is certain that his uncle has no intention of handing over his empire to anyone but his daughter, Supriya Sule.
Ajit Pawar's limitations — of language, vision and even popularity — confine him to Maharashtra and just to a section of the NCP at that. At one time, Sharad Pawar's nephew had turned down the offer to be deputy chief minister, comfortable in the belief that he was the natural heir. But with the realisation that he may have some serious competition, he virtually forced Sharad Pawar to give him that job in November 2010 when there was a change of guard in the Congress with Prithviraj Chavan sworn in as chief minister. Sharad Pawar gave in, against his will, to avoid the possibility of a split in his party. Since then Ajit Pawar has attempted to strike out on his own, but some electoral failures on his own home turf, alienation of the media and lack of judgment skills combined with his natural arrogance saw to it that he could not emerge as a clear second-in-command in the NCP. His rebellion now, against both his uncle and the CM, brings to the fore even more starkly his lack of political acumen. Far from splitting the NCP or enforcing the removal of the CM, it only shows up the NCP as being not serious about fighting corruption and drives Sharad Pawar into the Congress's arms even more effectively.
For Ajit Pawar's grandstanding is not on principles but on an issue of personal corruption. This attempt to escape the consequences of his actions has not gone down well with the political class, including many in his own party who are facing similar charges. Moreover, far from forcing the removal of Mr Chavan, who is persisting with his anti-corruption agenda, Ajit Pawar seems to have only weakened his own uncle's position vis-à-vis the Congress. Apart from the fact that the NCP needs the Congress more electorally, than the other way round, now it is even more vital that Sharad Pawar keep his ties with the Congress cordial for his very survival. So while it may seem like a crisis, the Congress could not have received a bigger boost than this one. This is clearly a blessing in disguise.