Purported rift in Pawar clan in Maharashtra a reminder of internal power dynamics within political dynasties

On 23 November, Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the Chief Minister with Ajit Pawar as his deputy, in a hurried ceremony, laying bare a rift within the NCP

FP Staff November 26, 2019 14:57:23 IST
Purported rift in Pawar clan in Maharashtra a reminder of internal power dynamics within political dynasties
  • On 23 November, Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the Chief Minister with Ajit Pawar as his deputy, in a hurried ceremony at the Raj Bhavan

  • The Maharashtra Assembly polls ended with a fractured mandate, with the BJP getting 105 seats, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44

  • The Supreme Court has ordered a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on 27 November

A study showed that the 15th Lok Sabha, formed after the 2009 general election, had 53 MPs belonging to political dynasties while 30 percent of the members of the Lower House were from influential clans in the term that began in 2019.

It was during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls that signs of a rift that would magnify into a defection began showing in Maharashtra. Senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar's son Parth entered the poll fray at the cost of party supremo Sharad Pawar withdrawing from the electoral race. Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule then denied the episode causing a rift in the family. “Blood is thicker than the elixir of politics,” she said.

Purported rift in Pawar clan in Maharashtra a reminder of internal power dynamics within political dynasties

File image of Sharad Pawar. PTI

Less than a year later, the Maharashtra Assembly elections concluded with a fractured mandate followed by disagreement between saffron allies Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena over the sharing of the chief ministerial post. Hectic meetings between parties to form a coalition ensued and on 23 November, Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the chief minister with Ajit Pawar as his deputy, in a hurried ceremony, laying bare a rift within the party. Claims of Ajit Pawar having the support of 54 NCP MLAs were refuted and a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on 27 November will now decide the legitimacy of the government that Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar's nephew claim to have the support of.

Senior NCP leader Sunil Tatkare’s nephew Avdhut joined the Shiv Sena in September, owing to strong political differences. Sources told NDTV that Sunil Tatkare wanted his daughter Aditi to contest from the Shrivardhan assembly seat and this is what led to the friction. Top NCP leaders like Jaydutt Kshirsagar, Sachin Ahir, Dilip Sopal, Rashmi Bagal and Dhanraj Mahale had already joined the Shiv Sena around the same time.

NCP stalwart and a close associate of Sharad Pawar Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil switched to the BJP after his son Ranjitsinh was nominated a Lok Sabha candidate by the saffron camp. His nephew Dhavalsinh Mohite Patil, a known opponent of his cousin, has joined the Sena.

Ajit Pawar's personal decision to ditch the dynasty and join hands with the BJP and several other defections from the Sharad Pawar-led party is a reminder of how the NCP was formed in 1999. Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar had formed the party after being expelled from the Congress for not supporting Sonia Gandhi as a successor to lead the party.

The State of Maharashtra and the parties therein have not been new to factionalism. The Shiv Sena too broke into two factions when Raj Thackeray broke away from the party led by Balasaheb Thackeray to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006. The differences cropped up due to differences with his cousin Uddhav Thackeray and to his sidelining by the Shiv Sena in major decisions like distribution of election tickets.

The BJP too witnessed such a rift in 2013 when deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde was challenged by nephew Dhananjay Munde, who crossed over to the NCP owing to ideological differences and presented a challenge to him from his constituency Beed.

National parties are at the forefront of the phenomenon, a study found. The gap is particularly striking in Bihar (58 percent of dynasts among the candidates of the national parties against 14 percent among those of the state parties), in Haryana (50 percent against 5 percent), in Karnataka (35 percent against 13 percent), in Maharashtra (35 percent against 19 percent), in Odisha (33 percent against 15 percent), in Telangana (32 percent against 22 percent) and even in Uttar Pradesh (28 percent against 18 percent).

The phenomenon, however, did not bear favourable results for political clans in Haryana. An INLD rally at Gohana in October 2018 had seen the heckling of Abhay Chautala, a son of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Om Prakash Chautala for which Dushyant Chautala, a grandson, and his younger brother, Digvijay Chautala, were blamed. When Dushyant and Digvijay were expelled from the INLD for allegedly permitting indiscipline at the rally, their father, Ajay Chautala, supported them and so he too was expelled from the INLD.

Digvijay and Dushyant formed the Jannayak Janata Party in December 2018 and defeated senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala in the Jind by-election. While the JJP's alliance with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) received a drubbing the Lok Sabha polls, tables soon turned as the party was put in the position of kingmaker after the 21 October Haryana state elections. The JJP went ahead to ally with the BJP and gave the state the chief ministership of Manohar Lal Khattar, a non-Jat (Jats are among the dominant communities in Haryana) and non-dynast.

Meanwhile, INLD’s vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections shrunk to 1.9 percent.

Among the earliest examples of a political figure breaking away from a dynasty was that of Maneka Gandhi's. Not following the natural line of joining the Congress, Maneka contested her first election as an independent candidate in 1984.She then contested twice and emerged victorious as a Janata Dal candidate in 1989 and 1996. It was in 2004, that she joined her deceased husband Sanjay Gandhi's rival party BJP and has been elected an MP on BJP tickets ever since.

According to a study, among the large states, those where the proportion of dynasts stands above the national average are Rajasthan (32 percent), Orissa (33 percent), Telangana (35 percent), Andhra Pradesh (36 percent), Tamil Nadu (37 percent), Karnataka (39 percent), Maharashtra (42 percent), Bihar (43 percent) and Punjab (62 percent).

The Shiromani Akali Dal holds strong political dominance even as the Amarinder Singh-Navjot Singh Sidhu feud plays out in Punjab. Meanwhile, in Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal has seen conflicts between the political heir Tejashwi Yadav and the mercurial son Tej Pratap Yadav. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he announced the formation of a parallel outfiy Lalu Rabri Morcha and urged his mother Rabri Devi to contest from Saran Lok Sabha seat in place of Chandrika Rai, the father of his estranged wife and threatened to contest as an Independent if his request was not heeded.

NT Rama Rao's daughter Daggubati Purandeswari, who was a Congress MP in the UPA-2 government, had resigned from the party in 2014 and joined the BJP. After joining BJP, she contested from Andhra Pradesh's Rajampet in 2014 and Visakhapatnam in 2019.

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