Sharad Pawar: The ultimate Paltiwal

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 03, 2014 06:33 hrs

Nowadays AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has got the nickname of Paltiwal (from palti meaning U-turn) thanks to his many about turns on key issues. But the ultimate Paltiwal is probably NCP chief Sharad Pawar who has changed his political stand so many times that one doesn’t know what he stands for anymore.

1. Joins Congress: Pawar was a young achiever and entered politics quite early, first organizing a protest march favouring Goa’s independence when he was just a teenager. He became an MLA at the age of 26 and subsequently became one of the youngest ministers in the country.

2. Leaves Congress: However that was not enough for Pawar and he was highly ambitious. While the Congress party saw regular splits in the 1960s and 1970s, Pawar did one of his own and emerged as Maharashtra’s youngest Chief Minister in 1978 when he was in his late thirties. It was the first time that the Congress lost power in the State and Pawar’s party was called the Progressive Democratic Front.

3. Joins Congress again: When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 at the Centre, she dismissed the Pawar government and he spent many years in the Opposition. While returning to the Congress under Indira might have been difficult, Pawar bided his time and made his move when Rajiv Gandhi became PM.

So in 1987, the prodigal son returned to the party and made Chief Minister in the very next year. He won the 1990 state elections and in 1991, after Rajiv’s death, almost made it to Prime Minister, losing out to PV Narasimha Rao in the end.

4. Leaves Congress again: After that things went downhill for Pawar and he lost his CM’s post and also failed to dislodge Sitaram Kesri for the post of Congress President in 1997. He finally founded the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 1999 to oppose Sonia Gandhi from becoming PM since she was of foreign origin.

5. Joins hands with Congress: It is ironic that the man who formed a party just to oppose Sonia would join hands with her again and that is exactly what he did when he joined hands with the Congress to become part of the UPA in 2004.

It is more ironic that the man who kept leaving the Congress every now and then would become Sonia’s staunchest ally for the last 10 odd years. The Congress has seen the CPM, Trinamool, DMK desert them one by one, but the NCP has been the staunchest ally.

6. Getting ready to leave Congress again? And now it looks like Pawar is getting ready to ditch the Congress yet again. First NCP leader Praful Patel said that Godhra was a closed issue and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi should be left alone and then Pawar echoed the same.

There are talks of a secret meeting between Pawar and Modi for a 2014 alliance. While it sounds far-fetched, anything is possible is Pawar’s theatre of the absurd where anyone can become a friend and anyone can become an enemy at any time.

Imagine a grand alliance of the BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP in Maharashtra! Would that sweep the polls or would that lead to confusion and revulsion among his voters?

Pawar’s networking skills are legendary. He always made it back to the Congress no matter how many times he ditched them. He shared a working relationship with the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Then he snatched his deputy Chagan Bhujbal from right under his nose.

In 1990 when he was short of MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly, he got the support of 12 Independents just like that. He honed his cricketing links all the way to head the prestigious ICC.

His opponents claim that he has similar links with criminals too. Pawar’s name was also dragged into the net of the other networker in the 2G scam, Nira Radia and that should come as no surprise to anyone.

If Pawar does manage do strike some kind of deal with Modi, it may be seen as a major coup by many, but for Pawar it would be just another day’s work. Even if the deal doesn’t go through now, don’t rule out Pawar becoming a minister in Modi’s Cabinet should the latter become PM!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.