NCP split a reminder of succession battles in regional parties

The NCP’s split is, in fact, symptomatic of the contradictions that political parties, founded by satraps, face at the time of choosing its successors

July 09, 2023 03:41 pm | Updated July 10, 2023 01:56 am IST - New Delhi

A collage of NCP President Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra’s Deputy CM Ajit Pawar.

A collage of NCP President Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra’s Deputy CM Ajit Pawar. | Photo Credit: Photo: PTI and Emmanual Yogini

In December 2015, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, then the party chief, speaking at an event to mark Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) founder Sharad Pawar’s 75th birthday celebrations at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan, recalled the talented leg-spinner Sadashiv Ganpatrao ‘Sadu’ Shinde, who also played for India in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

“Perhaps not many know that his father-in-law, who tragically died at a very young age, was a leg spinner and played 7 tests for India. Perhaps, this could have been one influence on him…,” Ms. Gandhi said as the audience burst into a laughter.

Also read | Pawars lock horns for party dominance

She then went on to point out that in the language of information technology (IT) Mr. Pawar’s social networking skills were formidable. The event itself was its evidence as the entire Indian political league shared the stage, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Sharad Rao [Pawar] has the quality of a farmer who can sense weather conditions much in advance. And he has used this skill very well in politics,” said Mr. Modi, referring to the political moves of the NCP stalwart that often kept both his adversaries and allies guessing.

Yet, none of these skills could prevent the vertical split of his party by his nephew, Ajit Pawar, and some of his most trusted aides like Praful Patel, Chagan Bhujbal and Dilip Walse Patil among others.

The NCP’s split is, in fact, symptomatic of the contradictions that political parties, founded by satraps, face at the time of choosing its successors.

Many of these parties, including the NCP, were formed after their founders rebel against the established leadership. The stated reasons for such a split are often different from the unstated ones, that are invariably tied to the leadership prospects of the founding members.

Mr. Pawar may have walked out of the Congress over the “foreign origin” issue of Ms. Gandhi but it was well known in political circles that he was a contender for the Congress president’s post, a position that would have brought him closer to his ambition of occupying the country’s top job.

Other leaders of the splinter Congress groups too have had a similar trajectory. But as these leaders, and the parties they founded, grew politically, they were hit by the question of family versus outsiders debate with regard to the leadership question.

Junior Pawar, along with Mr. Patel and Mr. Bhujbal, rebelled soon after Mr. Pawar anointed his daughter and Lok Sabha member Supriya Sule as a working president along with Mr. Patel. 

The move was seen as the first step towards handing over NCP’s reins to Ms. Sule as and when her father decided to take political retirement.

Similar tussles over inheritance of political legacy has been witnessed across the political spectrum.

Also Read | NCP split may impact national efforts in Opposition unity 

Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj, parted ways over the question of who will take over the mantle of founder Balasaheb Thackeray. When Balasaheb backed his son, Mr. Raj Thackeray floated his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) too had witnessed a split, when Uncle Shivpal Yadav had snapped ties with his nephew, Akhilesh Yadav, over inheriting SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s legacy. Finally, the uncle reluctantly returned to the SP fold when the vast majority of late Mulayam Singh Yadav’s supporters backed his son, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav.

The DMK had also seen a similar tussle between current chief, M.K. Stalin and his elder brother, M.K. Alagiri, before their father M. Karunanidihi leaned in favour of his younger son. And same was the case with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) when younger son, Tejashwi, scored over elder brother, Tej Pratap.

In Andhra Pradesh, as YSR Congress Party chief and Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy was chosen as the lifetime party chief, his sister, Y.S. Sharmila decided to move to Telangana to launch her own party, YSR Telangana party.

Earlier, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1995 had witnessed a family feud as founder, N.T. Ramarao’s son-in-law, Chandrababu Naidu, split the party and became Chief Minister to check the ‘growing influence’ of Mr. Ramarao’s second wife, Lakshmi Parvathi, on TDP.

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