Is Pawar sailing on two boats?

Sharad Pawar, the Maratha-strong man who is a ‘master strategist’ in cobbling up alliances among political parties, appears losing his credibility in politics, thick and fast. He might have succeeded in forging a grand tie-up between his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the hard-core Hindutva proponent, the Shiv Sena, by forming the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government  and playing a key role in preventing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from coming to power in Maharashtra. But, not before playing the dirty game of signalling a go-ahead to his nephew and NCP MLA  Ajit Pawar to form a government.  That was soon after the last assembly polls when the BJP’s pre-poll ally, the Shiv Sena, opts to walk out staking claim for Chief Minister’s post, though it did not get requisite numbers. The BJP, on the other hand, had emerged as the single largest party with 100+ seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly.

That Pawar’s bluff was called when former state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis exposed him in a leading television channel interview. The BJP leader did reveal that he met Sharad Pawar no sooner did their traditional ally, the Shiv Sena, making unreasonable demands. Only after a firm assurance from Sharad Pawar, Fadnavis and Ajit met the state Governor to stake claim to form the government. But, for reasons best known to Sr Pawar he decided against it at the last minute, that too after both Fadnavis and Ajit took oath as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively. Interestingly, Sharad Pawar did not deny his folly, making a dent in his credibility.

Added to that he brazenly now alleges that yet again his nephew walked out of the party with a major chunk of NCP MLAs and MPs to join the coalition government in Maharashtra headed by Eknath Shinde, who too did a similar revolt against his Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray. Why the Shinde faction had turned against power-hungry Uddhav Thackeray was known to the world and the rebels indeed did not mince words when they accused him of deviating from the ideology of the party founder Balasaheb Thackeray. The senior Thackeray was known for his hardcore pursuit to protect Hindu interests and he also never failed to boast that it was his party that demolished the Babri Masjid. And his hatred towards the Congress too was very well-known. He, in fact, once made it clear that his party will never join hands with the Congress, even if it offers to share spoils of power. He once even  compared Congress with a disease. The Shiv Sena supremo on many occasions had lashed out at the Congress. On  Sonia Gandhi’s presence in politics, he once said that it would be a better idea to hand back the country to the British rather than Sonia Gandhi ruling it. “’I would prefer handing back power to the British, who have at least the experience of ruling the country for 150 years”.

On the contrary, even though Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Shiv Sena had different political ideologies, both leaders never took it personally. Both leaders came together for the first time during the 1982 textile workers’ strike. Both of them took on trade union leader Datta Samant in an attempt to stop the workers from participating in the strike. That was the binding between the two parties as Sharad Pawar too walked out of the Congress, opposing Sonia Gandhi’s candidature for possible prime ministership. Against that backdrop, Sharad Pawar’s yet another U-turn alleging that Ajit split the party to join the ruling alliance, only exposes his duplicity. Why blame only his nephew, even his most trusted lieutenant and party MP Praful Patel this time around chose to desert him. Can both leave without his consent? Can he dare deny that he had no hand in Patel’s wrongdoings? Is it not a fact that all his dirty work was done by Patel? Moreover was it not his decision to prop up his daughter and MP Supriya Sule over these two senior leaders, that might have been another reason behind the two leaders leaving the party? And he claim that some of his partymen might have left as cases were filed against them by the Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation, among others. Can Sharad Pawar deny that even cases were pending against him over money laundering as well as links with the  underworld? He might even have encouraged his men to join the ruling party in a bid to bail himself out as in almost all cases that he is accused of have links with Patel.

Hence, now his claims of his lieutenants deserted the party to save their skin, have no takers. This statement appears to be an afterthought following his nephew’s meeting with him recently to seek his blessings, to save some grace in the so-called new alliance Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.). Pawar, who might have realized that he may not be counted upon by any Opposition party members as he lost the number of games to his nephew, has played this trick of accusing his most trusted friend like Patel. Sharad Pawar, thus far, lost the plot, and he may sooner than later disappear from the national political scene if the discredited MVA fails to stall the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut in the Lok Sabha polls next year in his state. Though, the pollsters are giving still some hope of the MVA putting up some fight in the LS polls, many who know Sharad Pawar well, lack that confidence. And, one of the reasons may be his advancing age.