Ajit Pawar’s overnight coup similar to uncle Sharad Pawar’s action 41 years ago

PTI New Delhi | Updated on November 23, 2019

Ajit Pawar with Nationalist Congress President (NCP) Sharad Pawar   -  File Photo: PTI

Ajit Pawar’s decision to join hands with the BJP in an act of overnight rebellion bears a striking resemblance to his uncle Sharad Pawar’s coup against a government formed by two Congress factions to become the State’s youngest Chief Minister 41 years ago.

In 1978, Pawar ran the rainbow coalition comprising the Janta Party and the Peasants Workers Party that lasted less than two years. Incidentally, this time he is trying to forge a similar alliance in the state by joining hands with the Congress and the Shiv Sena.

Ajit Pawar was sworn-in as that Deputy Chief Minister of the State on Saturday morning, only to be snubbed by Pawar who said the decision to support the BJP was not backed by him and was his nephew’s personal one.

In fact, Pawar’s decision in 1978 to establish his own party and run it for a decade earned him the unofficial title of “strongman” in political circles.

Rainbow coalition

Pawar wrote in his book On My Terms that the poll reverses in the 1977 post-Emergency anti-Indira wave shocked many in the State and the country. VN Gadgil lost on a Congress ticket in Baramati, the home turf of the Pawars.

In January, 1978 Indira Gandhi split the Congress, forming Congress (Indira) to take on the parent organisation Congress (S - headed by Sardar Swarn Singh) in the state elections. Pawar stayed with Congress (S) and his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan.

In the state assembly polls held a month later, the Congress (S) won 69 seats as against 65 of Congress (I). The Janta Party had won 99 seats. However, no party got a full majority. The two factions of the Congress came together to form the government headed by Vasantdada Patil from Congress (S) and with Nashikrao Tirpude from Congress (I) as the Deputy Chief Minister. However, the bickering between the two Congress factions continued which made it difficult to run the government.

Pawar decided to quit. His relations with Janata Party president Chandrashekar helped him a great deal. “You will have to play a key role in this,” Chandrashekar told Pawar.

Accordingly, Pawar started seeking support of the MLAs. Sushilkumar Shinde, who went on to become the State’s Chief Minister and then Union Home Minister, Datta Meghe and Sundarrao Solanke sent their resignations to Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil.

Pawar walked out with 38 Congress MLAs to form a new government called Samantar Congress (Parallel Congress). Pawar then became the youngest chief minister of the state at the age of 38. The new government was a rainbow coalition of the Janta Party, Peasants Workers Party (PWP) and other smaller parties, senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar said.

When Pawar resigned, the state assembly session was on. “Even while the House was discussing supplementary demands, the government was reduced to a minority, following which Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil submitted his resignation,” Pawar writes. However, with the return of Gandhi to power in 1980, his government was dismissed.

Maratha strongman

Political Analyst Suhas Palshikar, in a profile on the Maratha strongman titled A chapter named Pawar in a Marathi magazine, writes that Pawar led the party for over a decade and returned to the parent party under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi.

“Because he decided to establish his own party and ran it a for decade, (it) helped him earn the image of a strongman,” Palshikar writes.

Published on November 23, 2019

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