BOTH Rajiv Gandhi and Chandra Shekhar were among top leaders who attended the wedding of Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule at Baramati on March 4, 1991. After the wedding, Chandra Shekhar, the then PM, offered Rajiv Gandhi a lift back to Delhi in his official aircraft. Rajiv, who was the Congress chief, first accepted the offer but then backed out.
Two days later, the Congress pulled the rug from under Chandra Shekhar, forcing polls.
In his autobiography, On My Terms: From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power, Pawar offers the inside story of numerous such political events in which he was involved. The autobiography will be released Thursday at Vigyan Bhavan in a ceremony to mark the NCP founder’s 75th birthday.
The book gives a detailed account of how his proximity to Chandra Shekhar brought rough weather to his ties with Rajiv.
Pawar had campaigned for Chandra Shekhar’s candidacy to the Congress Parliamentary Party and had enjoyed his support in 1978, when he became Maharashtra CM for the first time at the age of 38. After the VP Singh government fell in November 1990, Chandra Shekhar was to take over as PM and Pawar travelled to Delhi with his family to congratulate him.
Chandra Shekhar was “particularly fond” of Supriya, who impulsively asked him: “Uncle, would you join us for lunch after the swearing-in?” The future PM accepted, broke protocol and drove down to Maharashtra Sadan for lunch after his swearing-in. “The question was innocent, as was the answer,” writes Pawar, but “political pundits and the media went into a tizzy”.
Giving an account of the exchange between Chandra Shekhar and Rajiv, Pawar says the Congress chief first accepted the offer to fly with the PM. He told the PM that he would spend a little more time with Pawar’s family, and meet him at Pune airport. But he tarried until a perplexed Pawar had to ask him what was on his mind. “I was taken aback when he said, ‘You see, I don’t wish to accompany him to New Delhi. You may ask him to go ahead.’”
Two days later, the Congress forced the elections. Preoccupied with the wedding, Pawar had not realised how close the government was to a crisis and as the host, he was embarrassed.
Pawar also writes about a challenge to his leadership from party leaders in Maharashtra.