Rivalries between uncles and nephews is not a new phenomenon in Maharashtra politics, which is in churn following NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s coup against the party chief and his uncle Sharad Pawar, the tallest political leader in the state.
Ajit Pawar’s act of joining hands with the BJP on Saturday at a time when the NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress combine was being put in place to form an alternative government to checkmate the BJP, stunned many.
In an early morning development on Saturday, Ajit Pawar took oath as deputy chief minister alongside Devendra Fadnavis who sworn in as the chief minister for a second time. Ajit Pawar’s “revolt” virtually sabotaged the efforts of the Sena, NCP and Congress to prop up a government of disparate allies.
Interestingly, Fadnavis had taken a dig at the Pawars during the campaigning for the October assembly elections through the old Hindi song: “Bure kaam ka bura natija, kyo bhai chacha, haan bhatija“. However, the same ‘bhatija’ (Ajit Pawar) has stood up against his ‘chacha’ (Sharad Pawar).
Another famous case of nephew-uncle war is that of Raj Thackeray, who broke away from the Sena in 2006 claiming that his uncle Bal Thackeray was promoting the latter’s son Uddhav in the party. Raj later founded Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) which had won 13 out of the total 288 seats in the 2009 assembly polls, before it started losing momentum.
Similarly, Dhananjay Munde had parted ways with his uncle late Gopinath Munde of the BJP, apparently over the growing importance of the saffron stalwart’s daughter Pankaja Munde.
Dhananjay later joined the NCP and went on the become the leader of opposition in the state Legislative Council while Pankaja was elected as an MLA and became a minister in the BJP-led government in the state in 2014. She lost to Dhananjay in 2019 polls.
“This is not the first time that a nephew has revolted against his uncle from a politically dominated family but the recent one is quite shocking as it happened with the most respected political family of Maharashtra, the Pawars,” said Arun Khore, a political analyst.
He said unlike in other cases, Ajit Pawar has taken the internecine feud to the next level by joining the BJP-led government. “The timing of the current episode involving Ajit Pawar is important. The episode has elements of deceit, betrayal and falsehood intertwined,” Khore added.
Many theories are doing rounds over the trigger behind Ajit Pawar’s “revolt” against Sharad Pawar. One of the probable explanations was that Ajit Pawar was sulking over his uncle apparently promoting his daughter Supriya Sule, an NCP MP, as his heir apparent.
However, the senior Pawar had dismissed this in a press conference on Saturday noon. Khore said Ajit Pawar was sending feelers to the BJP even though the discussion with the Sena and the Congress were progressing. Sharad Pawar had even announced that Uddhav Thackeray would be the next chief minister of the state.
“If he (Ajit) was against the NCP and the Congress joining hands with the Shiv Sena to form a government, he should have left the party with his group of MLAs or joined the BJP, but he chose to align with the BJP in this manner, which was more shocking,” he said.
Though he was stripped of the NCP legislature leader’s charge on Saturday, Ajit Pawar on Sunday maintained that he was with the NCP and talked about the “NCP-BJP” alliance. However, the senior Pawar hit back in no time, saying there was no question of any alliance with the Amit Shah-led party.