“It may not be a clean sweep but Sharad Pawar, the warrior, has fought back. And how,” NCP MP from Baramati, Supriya Sule, said on Thursday.
Addressing the media in Mumbai, the NCP chief showed just how his leadership helped the party improve its tally from 41 seats in 2014 to 54, just two behind the Shiv Sena: an unrelenting drive, even at just days shy of 79. While he was being hailed as the comeback king, Pawar said he would embark on a state-wide tour to develop a new batch of young, second-rung leaders in Maharashtra.
Not long ago, the state and his old associates seemed to have turned their back on Pawar, with many quitting the party to join either the BJP or the Sena. But rather than getting bogged down, Pawar decided to launch the comeback of his life, holding 66 rallies in the campaign phase.
In the run-up to the elections, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a case against Pawar in a money laundering case, but his strategy to run a campaign on how he was being “targeted” as part of vendetta politics by the ruling regime seems to have found a connect with the voters.
“In this election we have seen that people do not take to kindly to people who get intoxicated with power. Power comes and goes, and people have this expectation that you should be grounded. If you take a position contrary to that, the same people do not take to it kindly,” he said, reacting to the election verdict.
Pawar’s statement was a swipe at Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who, during campaigning, said that his party was ready for a wrestling match but there was no “pahalwan” (wrestler) left in the ring. Fadnavis had also taken swipes at Pawar at other times, comparing him to the comic jailer played by actor Asrani in the film ‘Sholay’.
“This government’s attitude of looking at people’s problems has not been liked by the people,” Pawar said. “This call of abki baar 220 paar (this time 220-plus) has not been accepted by the people.”
Pawar also denied that the NCP is looking at being a part of the government. “The mandate is that we sit in the Opposition. We will do that,” Pawar said.
— With Anuradha Mascarenhas in Pune