Acutely conscious of social equations with an ability for social engineering, NCP chief Sharad Pawar who has served thrice as the chief minister of Maharashtra, has a disproportionate weight in national politics. That has been the case ever since Pawar split from the Congress in the 1970s to form his own party. Before that, he was a Maratha strongman, with as much clout as his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan, but it was limited to the state.
Pawar appears to have now reached a point where there is a visible loss of initiative, even though he still has his way within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the party he set up. It didn't allow him to 'retire' – more about it later – and wanted him to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Madha constituency, which he had swept in 2009.
Pawar, however, has always maintained that he doesn't want a third person from the family to contest the Lok Sabha election at the same time. And that seems to have forced him to back down from the 2019 polls.
Because of Pawar's only two-from-family rule, the party’s wish that the NCP chief contests from Madha had to be abandoned. This doesn't appear as the best political decision from someone who is easily one of the tallest contemporary Maharashtrian leaders, and especially since he is leading one of the two major parties contesting the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with Congress in Maharashtra to diminish the clout of Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena.
Pawar's remarks that he did not want to deepen the presence of the Pawar family in politics should also be seen as a major step in a state steeped in the culture of political dynasties, but it also remains a fact that he could have done much more to reduce such tendencies.
No doubt, the practice of promoting dynastic sway on constituencies in Maharashtra, as elsewhere, is not confined to NCP. It is a feature found in almost all parties. But the NCP chief has had ample opportunities to avoid the dynastic compulsions whenever election tickets were distributed, but he didn’t.
When the NCP chief says that the young and fresh blood needs to be injected into politics, it does not necessarily have to be from his own family — for eg, former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar's son Parth Pawar, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Maval. Besides, according to the Indian Express, Rohit Pawar, Parth's paternal cousin and son of Rajendra Pawar (Ajit's elder brother), "will contest the Assembly elections" due in a few months.
Then there's the NCP chief's daughter Supriya Sule, an MP who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Baramati, so far the safest seat for the Pawars.
If this were to happen, with the NCP chief in Rajya Sabha till about the end of 2020 when his term would end, the Pawars would be the largest contingent in politics — state Assembly upwards — from one single family. Across the state and across parties, no such phenomenon has been seen in Maharashtra where one family has such a presence. Perhaps Mulayam Singh Yadav’s extended family could be rivalling the extended Pawar family in this aspect.
The NCP chief’s idea of "retirement" from electoral politics has been rather strange — not contesting a Lok Sabha seat but getting elected to the Rajya Sabha, and retaining the party’s stewardship to the extent it devolves to even attention to the minutiae of local self-government bodies.
He had announced his “retirement” in 2013 which his trusted aide Praful Patel had explained that it only meant not contesting the Madha seat in 2014.
Despite this, he was willing to be persuaded to contest the Lok Sabha election from Madha this time, but as the whole thing unravelled, he had to abandon the idea to accommodate his grandnephew Parth for a seat from Maval.
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Updated Date: Mar 13, 2019 17:23:44 IST