Mumbai

Pawar plays turban card to woo OBCs

Change in strategy: NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal greeting the crowd after wearing a Phule pagdi in Pune on Sunday.

Change in strategy: NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal greeting the crowd after wearing a Phule pagdi in Pune on Sunday.  

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NCP’s attempts through symbolism is nothing but drama, this will be a disaster, says BJP

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar presenting a Phule pagdi (turban) instead of the traditional Puneri pagdi to Chhagan Bhujbal on Sunday has implied two things: he stands with the OBC leader, and his party does not represent only Marathas.

“I and Mr. Bhujbal have been greeted with a certain type of pagdi. But I want to present a pagdi which from now on will be the only pagdi that our party will greet someone with,” Mr. Pawar said at the NCP’s 19th foundation day function.

He then asked Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan to bring the Phule pagdi for Mr. Bhujbal, who sat through Mr. Pawar’s speech with the turban on his head.

Surendra Jondhale, a political analyst, said Mr. Pawar wants to send a message that he is against this new regime equating the party with Peshawas, and intends to do bahujan politics.

“At a time when OBCs have turned to the BJP in large numbers, such symbolism is to assure them that their most popular leader in Mr. Bhujbal is with the NCP,” he said.

Historically, Puneri pagdi is seen as the symbol of Peshwas, the Brahmin rulers from Pune, who wore it in a particular manner. On the contrary, pagdi worn by social reformer Mahatma Phule has become the symbol of bahujans, who deny to follow the norms set by the upper caste rulers.

Phule being from the Mali community, one of the most dominant among the OBCs, Mr. Pawar’s directions to party workers about using Phule pagdi hold an important political message.

Since his release on bail, Mr. Bhujbal made his first public appearance in Pune on Sunday. An OBC himself, Mr. Bhujbal did not miss the opportunity to visit Phule’s residence on Saturday, saying he gives him constant energy. “Mr. Pawar has realised that winning elections as a Maratha party will not help him. Besides, no OBC leader in the State is as popular as Mr. Bhujbal,” Mr. Jondhale said.

Idealogy of equality

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Phule pagdi represents the ideology of equality. “That is what the NCP believes in, and Bhujbalji is a leader of OBCs for years. We do not have to project him in any manner.”

For the BJP, the NCP’s attempts to woo OBCs through symbolism are nothing but drama.

“Mr. Pawar has lost the balance. He first tried to create Brahmins versus Marathas, and now wants to pitch OBCs against Brahmins. This will be a disaster for the NCP,” BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said.

Mr. Bhandari also said even during Mr. Bhujbal’s heyday, he could not win a large number of OBC votes. “Expecting this now is nothing but daydreaming.”

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 3:15:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/pawar-plays-turban-card-to-woo-obcs/article24139402.ece

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