The younger leaders from the Pawar family — Supriya Sule, Parth Pawar and Rohit Pawar —met Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Pune on Friday morning, signaling a shift in the equation between two of the most prominent political families in the country. It also reflects a considerable softening of NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s stance towards Rahul, years after he famously stated that the Gandhi scion will have to prove his mettle in politics before he could take charge of the Congress party.
During Rahul’s short visit to Pune — he arrived from Nagpur on Thursday night and left for Chandrapur on Friday evening —he took time out to meet Congress and NCP leaders separately. The two parties are leading the opposition front in the state to take on the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine.
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The NCP delegation that met Rahul included Pawar’s daughter and candidate from Baramati Lok Sabha seat Supriya Sule, his grandson and Maval candidate Parth Pawar, and Amol Kolhe, the NCP candidate from Shirur. Rohit Pawar, grandson of the NCP chief and a Zilla Parishad member, city NCP unit chief Chetan Tupe and district party unit chief Pradeep Garatkar also attended the meeting.
The NCP had broken off its alliance with the Congress in the 2014 Assembly elections, with Pawar placing the blame for the rupture in ties squarely on the shoulders of Rahul, who was then the vice-president of Congress. The NCP chief had claimed that Rahul was trying to marginalise the Congress’s alliance partner.
The cracks in the alliance, however, had started appearing months before the NCP’s departure. While the Congress and NCP managed to hold their peace and contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections together, Pawar had raised eyebrows when he skipped a campaign rally in Mumbai where he would have had to share the dais with Rahul.