Mumbai: The Maharashtra developments could be the precursor to major changes in national politics, as NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has emerged as the biggest leader who can take on the Modi-Shah duo in the country.
With the Nationalist Congress Party hit by multiple desertions ahead of the Assembly polls, Mr Pawar assumed charge of the campaign and traversed the state. His efforts paid off, with the party winning 54 seats, 13 more than its 2014 tally in the 288-member House.
However, he faced his biggest challenge when he faced a revolt within his own family. As he focused his efforts on forming the government with the Shiv Sena and the Congress, his nephew Ajit Pawar shocked him by aligning with the BJP to form the government.
However, the shrewd politician that he is, Mr Pawar played his cards very smartly, which led to Ajit Pawar resigning as deputy CM on Tuesday, citing personal reasons, leaving Devendra Fadnavis high and dry. Within hours, Mr Fadnavis also resigned, paving way for a non-BJP combine to come to power in the state.
The astute role Mr Pawar played in ousting the BJP from power in Maharashtra will play a key role at the national level, political observers said. He is one of the few politicians to enjoy support from parties across regions and ideologies. “The triumph in Maharashtra has shown that if the Opposition parties come together, they can dislodge the BJP, and
Sharad Pawar is capable of it,” a senior NCP leader said. It was evident from the way Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray profusely thanked Mr Pawar for helping him to form the state government.
“Mr Pawar has shown that if there is a will, there is a way. With proper planning and a stubborn attitude, he has shown that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo can be defeated,” said a Shiv Sena leader.
In a career spanning 52 years in electoral politics, Mr Pawar has worked in several important posts in the state and at the Centre. He has been the defence minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a four-time chief minister of Maharashtra. He has been a member of the state Assembly and the Lok Sabha seven times each. At 27, he was already a legislator in the Maharashtra House.
Mr Pawar shot to fame in July 1978 when he dislodged the government led by Vasantdada Patil in the state to form a government with the Janata Party. He was only 38 at the time and is Maharashtra’s youngest CM till date. He went on to become CM again in 1988, 1990 and 1993.
Mr Pawar served as defence minister from June 1991 to March 1993. He parted ways with the Congress in 1999 over party chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin and formed the NCP the same year. The Congress and the NCP came together after the 1999 Assembly polls in Maharashtra to form the state government. Mr Pawar became agriculture minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet in 2004, and continued in that post until 2014.