Over the last 50 years, politics in Maharashtra has revolved around Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar and at the age of 79 he has fought many fierce battles. Today, he has given confidence to opposition parties in the country that Modi-Shah’s political game plans could be busted.

Fighter, not quitter

During the recently-concluded Assembly elections, he was all alone fighting the BJP’s massive election machinery comprising State and Central ministers. Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had vouched to ‘end Pawar’s politics’ in the State.

The Congress leadership was not too keen to fight the battle and the BJP was confident of a cakewalk. But Pawar went to the grassroots and addressed rallies after rallies to win substantial seats for his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.

When the BJP-Sena alliance decided to part ways over power sharing, Pawar again jumped into the action and convinced Congress President Sonia Gandhi to support a Sena-led government.

Meanwhile, the BJP masters hit Pawar where it hurts the most. The BJP managed to engineer a split in the NCP camp with Pawar’s nephew Ajit who took oath as deputy CM. Ajit was shouldered with the responsibility to bring a substantial chunk of NCP MLAs with him.

This was the first revolt in Pawar’s family. Right from the Congress and the Shiv Sena to political pundits suspected that it was Sharad Pawar’s plan to send his nephew in the BJP camp and keep Sena and Congress in the dark.

Master stroke

NCP’s future and his political credibility were at stake. The old man held rounds of meetings with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Congress leaders in Delhi to convince them that he was not behind Ajit’s move.

As Ajit Pawar and BJP started to woo the NCP MLAs, Sharad Pawar faced a tough challenge to keep his flock together.

Meanwhile, the younger Pawar also spread a message that those MLAs who will not follow his whip on the floor of the House will lose their membership of the Assembly.

Pawar removed his nephew from the post of the leader of the State legislature, but didn’t kick him out of the party. He also ensured that MLAs get a stern message from their constituencies that if they desert Pawar, there would be ‘consequences’. No MLA dared to challenge Pawar and join the nephew. Those who accompanied Ajit for his swearing ceremony, returned to Pawar and Ajit was left all alone.

Sharad Pawar’s plan has worked. His party remained intact and the nephew is back in the family.

Pawar also gave confidence to Sonia Gandhi that he will be monitoring the new alliance in Maharashtra. Today, as Uddhav Thackeray is ready to hold reins of the State, the Maratha strongman has emerged as a remote control of the new government and State politics.