May 29, 2020
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Maratha Masterstroke

Sharad Pawar, the 79-year-old patriarch of NCP, brings all his political skills to play, laying waste the bjp’s plans for a second term

Maratha Masterstroke
Photograph by Apoorva Salkade
Maratha Masterstroke

As sharp differences between BJP and Shiv Sena come to the fore over the issue of rotational chief minister, Pawar plays it cool, showing no urgency to jump into the battle for power. He says the people of Maharashtra have given the NCP-Congress alliance a mandate to sit in the opposition.

Pawar keeps waiting till the Sena reaches a point of no return in its fight against the BJP. He makes sure that the Sena severs its 30-year-old ties with BJP before opening channels for government-­formation talks.

He does not want to rush into government formation without the Congress. ­Sonia Gandhi is initially hesitant to support a Shiv Sena-led ­govern­ment because of its aggressive brand of Hindutva, but he convinces her that it is the need of the hour to keep BJP out of power in a key state like Maharashtra.

Congress finally says it will provide outside support to the government but Pawar waits until the party agrees to be part of the coalition government. He knows that it is necessary for the survival of the government.

Pawar remains non-committal about government formation all through the talks, primarily to keep the BJP top brass guessing about his motives.

He also makes sure that there is no confusion about thorny issues like rotational chief minister and everybody agrees to give Sena a five-year term.

He convinces Uddhav to become the chief minister instead of a young Aaditya Thackeray or anybody else from his party.

Even after his nephew Ajit Pawar rebels, Pawar does not lose composure and makes sure that all the newly elected legislators remain with him.

Pawar organises a joint parade of ­legislators of all the three parties at a hotel in a timely show of strength to claim support of 162 MLAs.

He exerts pressure on Ajit after his rebellion and keeps the doors of his party open for his return. It is a move that pays off and forces Devendra Fadnavis to resign even before facing the trust vote.

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