The Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance is a proof of the political genius of Sharad Pawar
Sharad Pawar has effectively, in two steps, put paid to his nephew and party strongman Ajit Pawar’s moves to take over the party and keep an option beyond the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance and hope to emerge as the leader of the state after the next elections.
In his first move, the grand old Maratha leader — who is regarded across the political spectrum for his Chanakya-esque strategic adeptness and tactical finesse — squarely turned the entire party in his favour by talking of resigning from his post. It was a shocker for a party he had founded and led for nearly a quarter of a century with no rivals or equals, after he left the Grand Old Party over a leadership dispute with Sonia Gandhi.
The NCP rank and file, including most of those who have a definite regard and heed for Ajit Pawar’s claims to be the successor and were merely awaiting a formal anointment, felt outraged and stood up publicly seeking Mr Sharad Pawar to withdraw his resignation and continue in his post. After the first step succeeded in putting his nephew back across the party, the strongman from Baramati and the leader from Maharashtra who came closest to becoming Prime Minister, began setting the stage for the next step.
The Nationalist Congress Party has been, ironically, in alliance with the Congress for the most part, both in the state Assembly and at the Centre. Even in the era which witnessed the peaking of the BJP’s popularity and power under Prime Minister Narendra Modi with electoral sweeps overseen by Amit Shah, the Congress-NCP alliance held the fort strongly.
When Mr Pawar saw an opportunity, he ensured the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which was seemingly unbreakable and was an ideological pairing for as long as Balasaheb Thackeray was alive, was finally broken; and the Shiv Sena was welcomed into a new formation, the MVA. The MVA is a proof of the political genius of Sharad Pawar; and despite the alternate plans harboured by his nephew, who loved to project himself as the successor in the party, he was put in his place.
The MVA formed a government, Mr Udhav Thackeray became chief minister and Ajit Pawar was clearly made to wait on his plans to do business with the BJP and take the throne. Now, with one stroke, Mr Sharad Pawar has left Ajit Pawar with no option but to see the succession put in place formally.
With total clarity on the future, Sharad Pawar used the party’s 25th anniversary to name Mr Praful Patel, a lifelong loyalist, as the party’s working president, along with the real political heiress and daughter, Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule, who quite clearly is expected to take over the NCP’s reins in times ahead.
The formal elevation of Ms Sule for the eventual switch, while Mr Patel remains a custodian and trustee, was the second step, which has clearly left Mr Ajit Pawar out of reckoning. Yet again blood proved thicker than any other claim, and yet again, a nephew lost out to a son or daughter. And Mr Sharad Pawar can yet again have the satisfaction of having won a crucial political battle.