NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar.(HT FILE)
NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar.(HT FILE)

Uncle-nephews who held nation to ransom

Modern-day politics has been wracked by ambitious nephews who wanted to grab all from their more illustrious and hard-working uncles without quite deserving it
By Sujata Anandan | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON NOV 27, 2019 04:22 AM IST

For long I have mulled over the fact that while maternal uncles (mamas) do not have a very savoury reputation in Indian mythology (Kansa, Shakuni, etc), modern-day politics, particularly in Maharashtra, has been wracked by ambitious nephews who wanted to grab all from their more illustrious and hard-working uncles without quite deserving it.

The first of these was the Bal Thackeray-Raj Thackeray duo of the Shiv Sena. Raj had an overriding ambition to inherit the Sena supremo’s trust and credit with the masses simply because he was seen as a chip of the old block. He emulated Thackeray in every way, down to his abusive tongue and abrasive manner with the top Sena leadership. He forgot that senior leaders had grown with Thackeray and owed him everything. While they would put up with the older leader’s foul language and public scolding, they had no reason to tolerate such behaviour from a boy they had seen born and brought up before their eyes. It was a matter of time before they put their heads together and sidelined Raj Thackeray. He was not even aware of the finesse with which they cut off his access to Matoshree. Raj loved two things above all else – campaigning and music. So they kept him on the campaign trail at election times and in the studios producing audios and videos for the party otherwise. They promoted and began to use the shy, polite and more deferent Uddhav Thackeray as a go-between to Thackeray and Matoshree, and waited for natural political ambition to rise in the son and drive a wedge between the two cousins, and eventually the uncle and nephew.

The Shiv Sena was never the same after the public spats between Raj and Uddhav Thackeray in the late 1990s, which led to an inevitable split in the once formidable party. Raj has been struggling ever since to keep his head above water, while Uddhav benefitted from the fight.

The Pawars are and were always different. From the times of Sharadabai Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s mother and the family matriarch, who herself was an elected member of the Pune local board (the British equivalent of the zilla parishad), there was never any question of grab and run or forcing one’s view on other members of the family. Pawar’s family was Left-oriented and supporters of the Peasants and Workers Party. Even today, many in the family support the PWP or continue to be its active members. Yet when Pawar, under the influence of YB Chavan, wanted to join the Congress, his mother, after long family confabulations that failed to persuade him otherwise, gave in and allowed him to seek and tread his own path in politics. Pawar followed the same route when his grandnephews wished to contest the Lok Sabha polls this summer. Once, after similar family confabulations, the decision was taken that Ajit Pawar’s son Parth would contest from Maval, he withdrew himself from the race because he felt more than two Pawars contesting one election would not go down well with the masses. Parth lost, but Rohit Pawar, the son of another nephew who sat out the Lok Sabha polls and ran for the Assembly this October, won. That also was a factor in the troubled relationship between Sharad Pawar and Ajit.

There is also the matter of Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule. Pawar always kept the two out of each other’s hair – Ajit in the state and Supriya at the Centre.

Whenever I asked him about the succession in the NCP, Pawar told me, “I don’t have to deciare a political heir. He or she will grow from the grassroots.” The use of the word “she” was a clear indication that he did not rule out his daughter’s succession and that was always a sore point with Ajit, who knows, like in the case of the Thackerays, blood could prove thicker than water.

The third pair of uncle-nephew in Maharashtra is that of the Bhujbals, Chhagan and Samir. They went to jail and came out together. But there seems no rift between the two. May they stay that way.

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