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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

NCP chief Pawar says will think of contesting Lok Sabha polls

During the meeting, Pawar was urged by sitting NCP MP from Madha, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil and others to reconsider contesting Lok Sabha polls

pune Updated: Feb 09, 2019 14:48 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
(From left) Sharad Pawar and Rajendra Gaikwad (in coat), descendent of Govind Gopal Gaikwad ‘Mahar’ at the samadhi in Vadhu Budruk.
(From left) Sharad Pawar and Rajendra Gaikwad (in coat), descendent of Govind Gopal Gaikwad ‘Mahar’ at the samadhi in Vadhu Budruk. (HT PHOTO)

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar hinted on Friday that he was reconsidering his previously stated resolve of not contesting elections.

On numerous occasions in the past, Pawar had said that he would not contest the Lok Sabha elections and in keeping with this resolve, had chosen to go to the Rajya Sabha in 2014 while deciding not to return to the Lok Sabha.

On Friday, however, he said that his party leaders were urging him to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls from the Madha Lok Sabha constituency in Solapur district.

“I have told them I will think about it. I have not decided yet,” said Pawar, while speaking to journalists at Baramati Hostel, after a meeting with party leaders. Among those present were NCP state unit chief Jayant Patil, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal and Jitendra Awhad.

During the meeting, Pawar was urged by sitting NCP MP from Madha, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil and others to reconsider contesting Lok Sabha polls.

“Most senior party leaders said since they respect and obey each of my decisions, they would want me consider their wish. Personally, I am not keen to fight the Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

Pawar had represented Madha constituency in Solapur district between 2009 to 2014 while vacating his traditional Baramati seat to daughter Supriya Sule.

Political observers feel that Pawar could rethink his decision to improve the party’s fortunes and increase the NCP’s count in the Lok Sabha to improve its bargaining power post polls. The party has already decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with Congress in Maharashtra with Pawar being instrumental in stitching a grand alliance at the national level.

When asked about state Congress president Ashok Chavan’s remark that simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly would help the Congress-NCP alliance, Pawar said it would certainly benefit the state. “The people of Maharashtra are eagerly awaiting the change. If the state assembly polls are held together with Lok Sabha, the state will have a relief,” said NCP chief.

Commenting on prime minister Narendra Modi’s vitriolic attack in Parliament on Thursday on Congress and the opposition alliance, he said, Modi’s response to the motion of thanks clearly defied the tradition.

“I have seen many past speeches including those made by Manmohan Singh and PV Narsimha Rao. Modi’s speech was completely in contrast and reflected the culture he comes from,” Pawar said while taking a dig at prime minister.

Pawar visits Govind Gopal Mahar’s shrine in Vadhu Budruk

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday visited the samadhi of Govind Gopal Gaikwad ‘Mahar’ at Vadhu Budruk, where a controversial board had triggered violence in the past.

Pawar was accompanied by Mahar’s descendant Rajendra Gaikwad who gave a brief overview of the shrine and its current status. Pawar made some inquiries about the shrine and promised help in the construction of a shrine at the spot, Gaikwad said.

Gaikwad said, “Pawar visited the samadhi in the evening. He asked about the ownership of the land on which the shrine is located. He has asked for a proposal regarding the samadhi saying that he would extend all help for construction and beautification of the place. It is a big development for us that he came and honoured our illustrious ancestor Govind Gopal Mahar. Pawar saheb offered his tributes to Govind Gopal Mahar. It is indeed an honour for us that a person of Sharad Pawar stature who has been a former agriculture minister of India visited our ancestors’ shrine and acknowledged his contributions towards his loyalty to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.”

A nondescript board put up near the shrine of the prominent Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in Vadhu Budruk near Bhima Koregaon last year had triggered the violence that rocked Maharashtra and sent shockwaves across India’s Dalit community. The board was erected by Dalit groups in Vadhu Budruk which stated that Govind Gopal Gaikwad ‘Mahar’ performed the last rites of the 17th century Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in 1689 in defiance of orders passed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

For Dalits, the board is a symbol of assertion and courage of one of their ancestors, but it angered other communities, especially right-wing groups, that claim Sambhaji as part of a narrative of Hindu resistance against Muslim aggression.

On December 29, 2017 in the middle of the night, an unknown group of people damaged the board. Following the incident, tension had gripped the area as people from higher castes gathered in a show of strength and Dalits filed a case under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018. The next day, violence had broken out that spread to nearby Bhima Koregaon, where Dalits had gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of an 1818 victory of the British army over the Peshwa rulers.

The shrine is heavily guarded by armed state reserve police personnel, round-the-clock CCTV surveillance is in place, in addition to the presence of policemen in plain clothes. This year, the samadhi was a major attraction for Dalits visiting Bhima Koregaon obelisk on January 1 on the occasion of the 201st anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. More than a lakh Dalits visited the samadhi this year.

Gaikwad said, “Last year, the board, chronicling my ancestor’s commitment and loyalty to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, was damaged with the ulterior motive of erasing his name from history.”

First Published: Feb 09, 2019 14:48 IST