At 75, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar has taken up the challenge to reassert the role of his regional party. Riding high on Pawar’s individual charisma, year-long programmes to mark his birthday will be kicked off across 36 districts of Maharashtra from Saturday, December 12.
Politically, two theories are doing the rounds on why Pawar has given the nod for celebrations on such a large scale. Political managers say, “The acceptability of Pawar across political ideologies and regional parties make him the most acceptable politician in India. By mid-2017, the possibility of Pawar emerging as a consensus candidate for the Presidential post cannot be ruled out.”
Another theory is that Pawar is using the birthday forum to not only set his own beleaguered organisation in order but also provide a platform for dissidents across parties to join hands with the NCP.
The Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra are scheduled for 2019. This means the NCP has four years to consolidate its own electoral base. The birthday of Pawar, many believe, can help the organisation to re-connect with the grassroots and restore Pawar’s lost political ground after the Bihar assembly elections which brought Nitish Kumar to the forefront as the new third front leader.
The Amrut Mahotsav Samiti led by his daughter (MP) Supriya Sule, senior leader Praful Patel and D P Tripathi has planned a multipronged strategy to commemorate Pawar’s birthday across Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.
State NCP leader Jayant Patil said, “The 75th birthday of Pawarsaheb is very special as it also marks the completion of 50 years of his eventful political journey.”
Officially, the NCP has maintained that birthdays are all about celebrations and a reckoning of the immense work by Pawar in diverse fields, ranging from reforms in political system, agriculture, education, industries and cricket. In Mumbai, the stage has been set for a big bash that will see Maratha leaders sharing the dais with the who’s who across sections. The list of celebrities run long, including Ratan Tata, Amitabh Bachhan, Sachin Tendulkar, Asha Bhosale and others.
A dedicated team of Pawar has meticulously planned the events. While the Delhi event on Friday was confined to politics, Mumbai would mark the versatile cosmopolitan character of Pawar with the who’s who across fields of art, cinema, politics, industries sharing the podium. In Pune, a forum will be provided for Pawar’s followers and friends from across Maharashtra.
Party insiders revealed, “The loud and clear message to the party cadre is that Pawar will continue to hold the reins for the welfare of the organisation. The party knows that unless he takes the centre-stage, it cannot stage a comeback in electoral politics.”
The year-long programmes include reaching out to the urban and rural masses by organising farmer rallies, student seminars, women empowerment programmes and youth mobilisation through corner meetings and sports. The district NCP units along with local leaders will hold functions throughout the year.