Sharad Pawar faces a concerted offensive from the Right, online and offline

NCP chief Sharad Pawar

NCP chief Sharad Pawar | Photo Credit: SHASHANK PARADE

From labelling him an atheist who has no respect for Hindu gods to claiming he kick-started casteist politics in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar is under attack from all corners. The attacks aren’t only from political parties — there have been death threats, comments on his illness and age, and some have even wished him hell.

The veteran Maharashtra politician, who was instrumental in setting up the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ruling alliance, and from whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi once used to take advice, is facing a well-coordinated attack, both online and offline, from Right wing sympathisers.

Last week, the Maharashtra BJP’s Twitter handle posted an edited video of Mr. Pawar’s public rally in Satara, where he recited a poem by Jawahar Rathod, in which the poet talks about atrocities committed on people from lower castes. The tweet said that “atheist Sharad Pawar always hated Hindu gods”. An army of social media trolls picked up the issue and targeted the NCP chief. Joining the chorus were some BJP leaders, including party MLA Nitesh Rane.

“The poet voices the pain of labourers who rue that they sculpted idols from rock but are stopped from entering the temple. The poem depicts pain, but if some people want to spread misinformation, they are free to do so,” Mr. Pawar retorted.

NCP Minister Jitendra Awhad said that Maharashtra had a thousand-year long tradition of rebellion against the “ Manuvadi” social structure by a number of saints and kings. “The poem is simply a part of that tradition. Those who support caste hierarchy will only oppose Mr. Pawar,” he said.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, who is now engulfed in a saffron shawl, has accused Mr. Pawar of initiating casteist politics in the State. His allegations, made through the past two months, circle around Mr. Pawar’s opposition to the late Brahmin historian Babasaheb Purandare, and support to the Maratha youth organisation, the Sambhaji Brigade. Mr. Pawar has clarified that no matter what Mr. Thackeray thinks, he [Mr. Pawar] has differences with Mr. Purandare’s version of history.

BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar has been accusing Mr. Pawar of neglecting the interests of the Dhangar (shepherd) community, while another BJP leader Sadabhau Khot too, has been targeting Mr. Pawar.

“Political revenge is certainly one reason behind the increased attacks on Pawar. But this is more of an attempt to demolish Pawar’s political credibility and humiliate him by making personal allegations against him,” Surendra Jondhale, a political commentator and former Professor of Political Science at Mumbai University, said. Dr. Jondhale said that the attacks also reflected the low level to which politics in the State had fallen. “The MVA government largely depends on him [Mr. Pawar] at present. Ensuring attacks on him from all quarters affects the morale of the government and also sends a message to Delhi that communities have now started opposing it [the MVA alliance],” he said.

NCP spokesperson Clyde Castro said that attacking Mr. Pawar is an easy way for Opposition leaders to gain publicity. “Media rushes, bytes [will be] shown if somebody speaks against Pawar. We as a party are strong enough to answer any criticism with vested interest against our leader,” Mr. Castro said.

The political attacks have led to social media trolls making distasteful and derogatory comments, and issuing threats to the NCP chief. Small-time Marathi actor Ketaki Chitle has been sent to police custody till June 18 for posting a message which wished his death, while a youth from Nasik by the name of Nikhil Bhamre was arrested after he issued a death threat, reminding Mr. Pawar of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse. Another BJP functionary was allegedly beaten up by NCP workers after he abused Mr. Pawar on social media.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 5:42:31 pm |