NCP CHIEF Sharad Pawar’s decision to decline an umbrella and continue with his speech amid a heavy downpour in Satara became the defining image of the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections.
The party may have finished third in the elections, but it was largely due to Pawar’s assertive leadership that NCP managed to improve its winning tally from 41 seats in 2014 to 54 this time.
Not long ago, the state and Pawar’s old associates seemed to have turned their backs on him with many quitting NCP to join either the BJP or the Shiv Sena. Pawar, rather than getting bogged down, decided to launch the comeback of his life, holding 66 rallies in the run up to the elections. Today, he stands as the lone Maharashtra politician with the maximum momentum going for him.
“It may not be a clean sweep but Sharad Pawar, the warrior, has fought back and how,” said Pawar’s daughter and Baramati MP Supriya Sule.
In the run up to the polls, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a money laundering case against Pawar, but the 79-year-old’s strategy to run an election on how he was being “targeted” as vendetta by the ruling regime seems to have found a connect with the voters.
“In this election, what we have seen is 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 contrarian position to this, people do not take to it kindly,” Pawar said while reacting to the verdict.
His statement was a swipe at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who during campaigning has said that his party was ready for a wrestling match, but there was no “pahalwan” left in the ring. He had also taken swipes at Pawar, comparing him to the jailer played by actor Asrani in the film Sholay.
Pawar claimed that people did not like BJP’s arrogance. “This government’s attitude of overlooking peoples’ problems has not been liked. The government and the CM’s approach in looking at problems has not been accepted by the electorate… The call of ‘Abki Baar 220 Paar’ has not been accepted by the people,” he added.
Pawar also denied that the NCP was looking at being a part of the government. “The mandate of the people is that we sit in the Opposition and we will do that.” He added that people did not take too kindly to defectors. “This party hopping has not been accepted by the people. Those who have done so have prima facie been seen in a negative light,” Pawar said.
Taking a swipe at BJP’s Satara Lok Sabha bypoll candidate Udayanraje Bhosale, who quit the NCP ahead of the state polls but failed to retain his seat on Thursday, Pawar said: “The people of Satara honour the gaddi (throne). However, if those sitting on the throne have no respect for the position that they enjoy, the people take a stand.” He added that he would go to Satara on Wednesday to thank the people for ensuring the win of NCP’s Shrinivas Patil.
While Pawar has consolidated his position as the undisputed leader of the NCP, he claimed that he would embark on a statewide tour to nurture second-rung leaders in the state.
Pawar is bracing himself for a possible internecine conflict within his own family, as his grandnephew Rohit Pawar has made a successful foray into the state Assembly and may potentially challenge his uncle and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar in the long run.