Picture this: Just over a month ago. Amar Singh announces that the Samajwadi Party will support Sharad Pawar for PM, if he chooses to stand. Pawar’s partyman and veteran PA Sangma says the next government will be a non-congress, non-BJP government, headed by Pawar. Even the Shiv Sena, Pawar’s on-off friend, initially backs him for the PM’s post, later retracting the statement under pressure from the NDA in-house PM aspirant Advani. Pawar, as usual, plays all his calls close to his chest. One day, he hobnobs with the left and Naveen Patnaik while the other day, he shares the stage with Sonia Gandhi at a Mumbai Rally.
Now: Pawar stands isolated. Even as his party celebrates its 10 year of being in existence, for a reason that never stood as one, Pawar himself is surrounded by debris of his own crash, head-first. NCP has lost face and seats, after going down three seats, from last time’s 11 to 8. NCP’s co-founder and Pawar’s close confidant, PA Sangma has officially gone on record, admitting his apology to Sonia Gandhi for splitting the party and thus, creating the NCP. Shrill voices are already questioning the reason for the existence of the party itself, now that the core issue with which Pawar created the NCP is no longer present: that of a foreign-origin person (read Sonia Gandhi) becoming the PM. Just when Pawar thought public memory’s infamous short-lived nature would help him ease out of the situation, another close confidant of his and NCP MP Padamsinh Patil has landed him in a soup which Pawar wont be able to digest. In sensational developments over the past week, in a 2006 case of a Congresman’s murder on the outskirts of Mumbai, Patil was arrested by the CBI as one of the co-accused already in Jail admitted that Patil was a co-conspirator. Crime’s nexus with politics, anyway omnipresent, is now in prime time limelight, thanks to Patil. For Pawar, it’s a case of headaches one too many.
Even as Pawar looks to celebrate his party’s 10 years of being founded, Pawar finds in doldrums the same party which, just before the 15th general elections was in such a upbeat mood, brimming with overconfidence that it demanded more seats in its tie-up with the Congress for the 48 seats up for grabs in Maharashtra. However, Pawar today has been left in a mode of deep introspection. For someone who has always been the rank outsider whose chances no one dared ruling out, today even his most trusted aides seem to wanting to move on. A case in point was PA Sangma, who happily made a confession of guilt to Sonia Gandhi. Rubbing salt to the wound was Congressman Prithviraj Chauhan, MoS, Home, who commented on the NCP’s post-election fate and said that it was upto the top brass in the NCP to decide whether the actual reason for which the NCP was born even exists today.
For Pawar however, this fate would have been not much of a setback, for it follows the pattern of his political life- a fitting example of yet near yet so far. Even after the 1991 elections, Pawar, being considered the tallest leader in the Congress then, was considered the front-runner for the post of the PM-a post Pawar has covertly coveted all along. However, a shock nomination to the PV Narsimha Rao and the subsequent decisions of the Rao-Manmohan duo to open up the economies meant that in Rao the congress had found a leader they could carry on their administrative business with.
After his death, Pawar again thought he stood a great chance, even as Sonia Gandhi had openly refused to being involved in national politics. However, a sudden decision by the same lady, better known as Sonia Gandhi, to lead the party from the front meant that it was amply clear that in keeping with Congress traditions, a Gandhi would once again rule the country, his or her only eligibility being the second name.
That, in fact, was the reason behind the NCP’s birth. A lot of disgruntled middle-rung leaders from the Congress jumped on to the bandwagon unleashed by Pawar, claiming that a person with foreign origins (read Sonia) should be not allowed to host the top post of the country’s PM.
However, with little going Pawar’s way right now, news has already starting coming in about the wings of some senior NCP leaders who were held for the disastrous performance of the party in the Lok Sabha elections. Also, to add to his list of headaches, Pawar’s introspection has to be done in time for the Vidhan Sabha elections in Maharashtra, in September.
For a man who has always taken pride in being someone who keeps his cards close to his chest, this time even the ultimate trick in his book has failed. As a result, Pawar must have now realised the fact that he would have perhaps fought the last election of his life. These elections might just have been the Maratha strongman’s swansong, but just like his political career, the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections might just be the ultimate redemption.