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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

2019 Lok Sabha elections: NCP chief Sharad Pawar is no loser in Maharashtra

In his 50-year-long career in politics, Pawar has contested 14 elections and won every single one of them, including in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

opinion Updated: Mar 13, 2019 08:11 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
In his 50-year-long career in politics, Pawar has contested 14 elections and won every single one of them, including in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
In his 50-year-long career in politics, Pawar has contested 14 elections and won every single one of them, including in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi(FILE)
         

It is ridiculous for any political rival of Sharad Pawar to think that he could be afraid of losing any grassroots election. Despite five years of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena rule in Maharashtra, it is inadequate to describe him as just the most influential leader of the state who has run rings round both the Sena and the BJP leaders. He is no less than the uncrowned king of Maharashtra, and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is now poking fun at Pawar for deciding not to contest the Lok Sabha polls, is way off the mark, in thinking Pawar is running away from the field.

In his 50-year-long career in politics, Pawar has contested 14 elections and won every single one of them, including in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Her son Rajiv then got the biggest mandate of all prime ministers so far – more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha – which was not even overcome by the BJP in 2014. Pawar had contested from his home turf in Baramati and won with a margin of nearly 2 lakh votes against the Congress candidate when all non-Congress parties around him were falling like nine pins. Two years later, he re-joined the Congress, and it was no hard task for him to get his Baramati Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) to resign and win the Assembly segment again when he became chief minister in 1988.

Two decades later when he launched his daughter Supriya Sule into electoral politics, there could have been no better constituency for her than her father’s old turf. As expected, her father’s capital with the voters helped her sweep by a margin of more than a lakh votes.

Pawar, ever hopeful of becoming prime minister at every election since 1984, chose the neighbouring Madha for himself and it was no hard task for this uncrowned king of the state to get anointed by the people of this constituency again. Such is his capital in western Maharashtra that when he chose the Rajya Sabha route and gave up Madha to another party leader in 2014, who had neither his charisma nor Pawar’s way with the people, it made no difference to the voters. The completely non-descript Vijaysinh Mohite Patil was among the four Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidates who rode home on Pawar’s capital even in the midst of a Modi wave.

So Pawar cannot be afraid of losing any election. However, he is being very correct in stepping back for the GenNext in his party and his family. Pawar cannot be unaware of the fact that the people of Maharashtra had recoiled against the overpowering domination of powerful Maratha families in the state, different members of who had captured different institutions at various levels. Like Pawar’s daughter in the Lok Sabha or his nephew in the Assembly who is aspiring to be a chief minister. There have been others including the brothers of Mohite-Patil and Vilasrao Deshmukh capturing either the zilla parishads or getting nominations to the state legislative council. Their sons and daughters, too, have been not too far behind, including those from the non-Maratha families, but nonetheless prominent leaders of the state like the Shindes or the Mundes.

Now two of Pawar’s great-nephews are all primed up to jump into electoral politics and Pawar recognises the obscenity of having multiple members from his family contest a single Lok Sabha poll. The Pawars have always been a democratic family, never imposing their decisions on others – even when Pawar’s entire family were Left-oriented and members of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), his mother, also PWP, did not stop him from joining the Congress and contesting on the party ticket.

Pawar and his nephews similarly left the decision to the youngsters in their family, but now that one of the two nephews is insistent, Pawar is stepping back as it would be too obscene to have three Pawars fighting the Lok Sabha simultaneously. It will not be a difficult task to have his great nephew elected and if ever Pawar were in a position to head a possibly victorious coalition government at the Centre, one of his family members could always resign their seat and make way for Pawar to enter the Lok Sabha. He would win hands down, as usual.

So, it is just plain silly to label Pawar a coward. He is just stepping back to make way for the new. That requires courage and a commitment to not just family but also democracy. He is a rare leader who needs a salute, not ridicule.