Millennium Post

Power struggle in NCP

The political crisis sparked off in Maharashtra following the resignation of the deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar is a clash of interest between Nationalist Congress Party [NCP] supremo Sharad Pawar and his estranged nephew. Ambitious as he is, the younger Pawar has been striving hard to enlarge his base and takeover the mantle of his uncle. Apparently Sharad Pawar wants his daughter Supriya Sule, an MP, to succeed him and here comes the clash of interest. The junior Pawar has nurtured his own constituency of loyalists to stymie the efforts of his uncle to pass on the baton to his only daughter.

Ajit Pawar, whose resignation has since been accepted, has not the slightest intention to ride into the sunset. So much so that he may take the risk of splitting the NCP to ensure his base. His exit from the Congress-NCP coalition is meant to embarrass his detractors within both parties to position the NCP under his leadership for the 2014 general elections.

That Ajit Pawar wanted of late to chart out his own route was not a secret. Unlike his uncle, the young Pawar has only one-point agenda: to control the state. While the senior Pawar is known for his cool politics, his nephew is the angry young man in a hurry. Sharad Pawar has always a wide-angle vision; Ajit Pawar is happy having a narrow focus. The senior Pawar, at least in his initial days, was always careful and selective in choosing the people round him; the company kept by junior Pawar borders on recklessness.

That, precisely, is the reason the young Pawar has found himself caught in a web of alleged corruption issues while still in his early years. The desperate situation he found himself in demanded an equally desperate measure. Hence, the resignation.

Allegation of a Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam during Ajit Pawar’s tenure as irrigation minister has been in news for a year now. Some months back, it figured in the state assembly and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan proposed a white paper. Yet the Deputy Chief Minister stayed put then, but has suddenly chosen to dash off his resignation, which has now been accepted.

The chief minister has been wielding the axe to cut the NCP to size. His purpose, endorsed by the Congress High Command, was to make the party’s minister accountable for their conspicuous lack of probity in public life – Sunil Tatkare, Gulabrao Deokar, Rajendra Darda and Chagan Bhujbal and, above all, Ajit Pawar.

A year ago the chief minister superseded the apex cooperative bank that Ajit Pawar controlled to distribute largesse not only to his own party’s legislators but also those from the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. Matters came to a head when Chavan dropped a dark hint that he would make public a white paper exposing a number of humongous scams in the irrigation department.

Ajit Pawar’s unexpected move has hit two targets. The first target is chief minister Chavan, whose obsession for political probity has supposedly affected Ajit and his colleagues’ machinations. The second is his uncle Sharad Pawar who, he suspects, is treating the Chief Minister with kid gloves. Ajit Pawar camp believes that Pawar senior was doing little to rein Chavan in.

This resulted in Ajit Pawar’s isolation. As the NCP head in the Assembly, his main objective was always to protect and encourage the state’s politically strong co-operative lobby. The political empire of the Pawars was built on a strong foundation of rich co-operatives run by Maratha musclemen, who, in turn, are loyal to NCP.The Congress’ and NCP’s sucess lies in giving these co-operatives barons a free hand.

In Prithiviraj Chavan, the Pawar clan found the first formidable challenger who wants to contain, if not demolish, the co-operative barons. Chavan is rare politician in Maharashtra who doesn’t have a co-operative body to back him. Having been given the rein of the state, Chavan, slowly but surely, started cornering the Pawars.

First was Lavasa, a controversial project near Pune that Pawars are believed to have stake in. Then came the dissolution of the Maharashtra state Co-operative Bank Board. The blow rattled the NCP, which forced the elder Pawar to intervene. Always wary of Sharad Pawar, the Congress’s central leadership is said to have advised Chavan to go slow on senior Pawar. The Chief Minister, in the meanwhile successfully built bridges with Sharad Pawar, who, apparently, wasn’t happy with the growing cult of more aggressive elements within the NCP who were loyal to his nephew. The feeling that Pawar Senior was closer to CM added to the unease in the Ajit Pawar camp.

At this point, Ajit Pawar wanted his uncle to take a firm stand against the CM. Pawar senior, however, didn’t appear to be doing so. Left to defend himself against a persistent Chief Minister and an unresponsive uncle, Ajit Pawar took the extreme step of quitting the government. The resignation might be the beginning of an end of the Sharad Pawar era in Maharashtra. [IPA]
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