At the age of 75, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar has once again taken centre stage in politics with his birthday celebrations – and the launch of his autobiography, Lok Mazze Sanagati. There is a buzz in the corridors of power whether the great Maratha leader will make it to the highest post in the country, mid-2017?
Officially, nobody in the NCP is willing to hazard a guess. However, everyone agrees that Pawar and his brand of politics are here to stay. In the 2014 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections, the NCP faced a major rout. Currently the NCP has just four members in Parliament and 41 MLAs in the stage legislature.
The party that parted ways with the parent Congress in 1999 to carve its own niche and identity has had a roller coaster ride but even when the party has not been a major force to reckon, Pawar’s stature in national politics has remained intact.
Pawar, at 38 was the youngest chief minister of Maharashtra. It was way back in 1967, when he stepped into state legislature assembly from the Baramati constituency. Today, Baramati is the role model for the one and all, especially in the field of agriculture. From former prime minister Manmohan Singh, to the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to the President of India Pranab Mukherjee – everyone important in politics has visited his home turf.
The five decade long political journey of Pawar is dotted with many milestones which may remain unsurpassed in the future. During his tenure as chief minister which he held for almost four terms, Maharashtra had earned the tag as the leading state in the country. Whether it was the first women’s reservation policy in 1994 or reforms in the horticulture sector, it was Pawar’s vision that showed the way to the country.
The NCP leader is known to be politically astute, often springing surprises that have redefined the politics of state. How else does one explain his decision to part company with the Congress in 1999 and then shake hands with Sonia Gandhi and share power with the Congress in Maharasthra and at the Centre?
The NCP leaders are quick to point out, “Pawar is a tallest leader of a small party.” In the current political scenario, Pawar’s political experience which stems from his in-built grassroots connect is perhaps unparalleled. The big question that has set many wondering is why has the NCP decided to launch a year long programme for Pawar’s 75th birthday? After all, Pawar has always been shy of celebrations – it took a great deal of persuasion for him to finally agree to a celebration of his 60th birthday which was held in Mumbai.
The Amrut Mahotsav Samiti has chalked out a year long plan. The celebrations of Pawar’s birthday began from Delhi (December 10) and continue in Mumbai (December 12), Pune (December 20) etc. – this is seen as a well calculated strategy to galvanise the cadre.
Political managers believe Pawar, with his excellent personal rapport with regional forces across country on one hand and the mainstream Congress on the other, is set to reinforce his political importance nationally. It is no secret that in UPA I & UPA II, Pawar was always the leader of the pressure group. His pragmatic politics coupled with pro-reforms agenda has always stood him apart from many others in the national politics.
Whether it is the Trinamool Congress Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Akali Dal’s Prakash Singh Badal, Telegu Desam’s Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu – he has friends east, west, north and south. And that is why he remains politically relevant.