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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

About time Pawar merges back with Congress | Opinion

Even today, Pawar has tremendous faith in and networking with not just Maharashtra’s bureaucrats but also those at the Centre

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2019 08:27 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Rahul Gandhi during 'Bharat Bandh' protest last year.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Rahul Gandhi during 'Bharat Bandh' protest last year. (HT Photo)
         

Despite what might have happened at the Lok Sabha elections, Pawar continues to be the tallest leader in Maharashtra and the most networked politician among netas from across the country as well as the bureaucracy.

There is no other reason why chief minister Devendra Fadnavis should react with such alacrity after a letter from him protesting about the female IAS officer who was accused of derogatorily tweeting about Mahatma Gandhi calling him names and lauding his assassin, Nathuram Godse. The officer has been transferred and an inquiry instituted against her.

Be that as it may, I recall that Pawar, during the past regime of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, raised a similar issue over disrespect to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru when Shiv Sena ministers, in particular, had removed photographs of Gandhiji and Nehru from their cabins and replaced them with those of Bal Thackeray. Even then his protest had not been agitational but a mere expression of disapproval that had got the ministers, urged by then chief minister Manohar Joshi, to hasten to put up those pictures once again.

I suspect he had also backed some top cops who had refused to defer to Narayan Rane when he became chief minister of Maharashtra in 1999 – the determination with which one such highly placed officer had told me he would not bow to or salute Rane, who he had acted against in various cases, could not have come without the political backing of a leader like Sharad Pawar.

Even today, Pawar has tremendous faith in and networking with not just Maharashtra’s bureaucrats but also those at the Centre. During his last term, even Narendra Modi acknowledged that no one in the country knows more about agriculture than the Maratha strongman and Pawar used that to good effect by drawing Central bureaucrats to the state to sort out issues related to farmers.

But while Pawar’s networking skills among bureaucrats and politicians is legendary, one has to now reconsider why his stock seems to be dipping among the voters.

This time around, Congress leaders of all factions vested complete faith in him, including the former leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Radhakrisna Vikhe Patil. Yet Pawar, who has had long decades of rivalry with the Vikhe Patils, going back to the days of the doyen of the sugar co-operative movement Vithalrao, the grandfather of Radhakrishna, could not resist putting them down once again after years of trying and failing to decimate the family.

The Vikhe Patils have been associated with he Congress since before independence, unlike Pawar’s family which started as supporters of the Peasants and Workers Party until Pawar was spotted by YB Chavan and taken under his wing.

Over the years, first Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, Radhakrishna’s father and now he and his son Sujay have had to make deals with the Shiv Sena or the BJP to escape Pawar’s manipulations against them. In various other constituencies and regions too, like the Konkan where he tried Maratha domination when even Chhatrapati Shivaji had let the traditional communities prevail, voters would rather go with their smaller chieftains, to whom they owe a lot than someone who is undoubtedly is bigger than them all.

That is perhaps the reason why Pawar’s party lost most of the seats it contested and among those who won, like Satara and Amravati, the candidates owed little to the NCP and got to the Lok Sabha under their own steam.

The Congress’s complete dependence on Pawar this election had a devastating effect on the party and I am now beginning to wonder if it was deliberate or accidental. Pawar’s real focus had been in the Assembly polls six months hence. But now, both the Congress and the NCP are in such a state that they are unlikely to combat a united Shiv Sena-BJP even then.

It is by now an established fact that Pawar sweeps elections in Maharashtra when at the head of the Congress party but on his own, has never been able to win more than a half dozen seats in the Lok Sabha and 40-60 seats in the Assembly. This has been the case for decades now.

So it is about time he merged his party with the Congress unless he wishes to see the sun to set on his career with ignominy rather than full glory.

For that is the way both parties, the Congress and NCP, are headed without unity.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 00:03 IST

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