Showtime over but questions remain
Not everyone is taken in by the emotional display of unity by the Pawar family, where power struggles are par for the course
Sharad Pawar may have made many politicians' careers and truncated those of several others in his long stint that is distributed equally in positions of power and in the Opposition. But those with genuine respect for him express it anyway. The nephew expressed his undying love and respect for the uncle with his abrupt resignation from the Baramati seat and threatened to sink NCP in a political cesspool. Known for his raw and abrasive demeanour, Ajit presented a softer side of his persona when he couldn't hold back tears while describing the alleged attempts of blackening his uncle's image.
As effective as Sharad Pawar's well-thought-out scheme of visiting the Enforcement Directorate office, Ajit's emotional submission should boost a dipping morale of NCP leaders and workers who were crestfallen because of the bad press and the rumours of an imminent split in NCP that the decision of the party's number two had given rise to. Three hours before Ajit resigned, the uncle had dropped his plan to visit the ED office to submitting his explanation. He wasn't summoned but a political momentum that had built up in the run-up to NCP boss's much-publicised intention to submit himself to the ED fizzled out as abruptly.
Truce and unanswered questions
Rumours of a power struggle within the Pawar family that do the rounds very often, were put to rest yet again by the uncle-nephew duo. But, political circles see things beyond the 22-hour drama. Has Ajit really calmed down? What kind of truce has Ajit agreed to in order to remain active in the current formation of the NPC? There is no way for us to know what must have transpired in a closed-door meeting at Sharad Pawar's Mumbai home. The Pawars are known for keeping secrets. Family secrets do reveal themselves sometimes but the family head has often ensured that they don't prove damning. And, yet, not many are willing to buy photo-copy versions of Sharad Pawar and his nephew.
The family head's (Sharad Pawar's) ability to control damage was in full view when he realised that the timing of Ajit's action was wrong and it wiped out the advantage that the uncle had derived from the inclusion of his name in the ED probe. Political pundits and the ruling parties, who felt that Ajit was up to something devastating, realised a day later that Sharad Pawar had again created a win-win situation for himself overnight. A tearful episode should garner the NCP boss the much-needed sympathy and support, though the Opposition feels that the majority of voters would not fall for the Pawars' victim-card politics.
Pitch for the polls
Ajit ended a 22-hour hiatus the next day, met the uncle and extended family and announced to the media that his abrupt action was the fallout of a personal hurt over his uncle's character assassination at the hands of the powers-that-be and the state agencies. His version was similar to the one Sharad Pawar had pedalled at a press conference in Pune a day before. Ajit went a step further in accusing the judiciary of making a case out of nothing against him, his uncle and the rest of the board of directors of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), who belonged to various parties. He admitted that they had gone out of their way to help sick cooperatives and reminded the incumbent government that it was no different. He said the inquiries did not scare him, but he expected investigators to hear his side and end the probe that was delayed keeping in mind the electoral politics.
BJP has been considering the Sharad Pawar-led NCP more troublesome than the Congress that had put Ajit Pawar and his associates of the state UPA government, in the dock over alleged scams in water resources department and MSCB. NCP had pulled the plug on the Prithiviraj Chavan government just ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections. That year, the state saw four-corner Assembly fights. The BJP in the minority was extended support by NCP when the counting was still on. Later, Sena joined in to stabilise the Devedra Fadnavis government. In the initial phases of his first term, PM Narendra Modi impressed upon the people that the NCP boss was very friendly with him. The PM presented Pawar with the second-highest civilian award, the honour the UPA denied to the NCP chief. But as BJP turned itself into a near invincible force by inducting as many close associates of Pawar and also forced the ally Shiv Sena into submission, the pending cases against the NCP leaders cropped up. The NCP leaders are on tenterhooks, but they are still hopeful of performing better than others in the Opposition, thanks to a timely resolution-cum-truce between the Pawars.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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