NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s decision to join hands with the BJP bears a striking resemblance to his uncle Sharad Pawar’s coup against a government formed by two Congress factions 41 years ago.
In 1978, Mr. Pawar ran the rainbow coalition comprising the Janata Party and the Peasants Workers Party, which lasted less than two years. Incidentally, this time he is trying to forge a similar alliance in the State by joining hands with the Congress and the Shiv Sena.
Mr. Ajit Pawar was sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister on November 23, only to be snubbed by Mr. Sharad Pawar who said the decision to support the BJP was his nephew’s personal one .
Mr. Sharad Pawar’s decision in 1978 to establish his own party and run it for a decade earned him the unofficial title of “strongman” in political circles. Mr. Pawar wrote in his book, On My Terms , that the poll reverses in the 1977 post-Emergency anti-Indira wave shocked many in the State and the country. V.N. Gadgil lost on a Congress ticket in Baramati, the home turf of the Pawars.
In January 1978, Indira Gandhi split the Congress, forming Congress (Indira) to take on the parent organisation Congress (S), headed by Sardar Swarn Singh, in the State elections. Mr. Sharad Pawar stayed with the Congress(S), and in the Assembly polls held a month later, the party won 69 seats against 65 of the Congress (I). The Janata Party won 99 seats. However, no party got a full majority.
The two Congress factions got together to form a government headed by Vasantdada Patil from the Congress(S) and with Nashikrao Tirpude from Congress (I) as the Deputy Chief Minister.
However, the bickering between them continued, and Mr. Sharad Pawar decided to quit.
His relations with Janata Party president Chandrashekar helped him a great deal. “You will have to play a key role in this,” Mr. Chandrashekar told Mr. Pawar.
He then started seeking support of the MLAs. Sushilkumar Shinde and others sent their resignations to the Chief Minister.
Mr. Sharad Pawar walked out with 38 MLAs to form a new government and became the youngest Chief Minister of the State at the age of 38.
The new government was a rainbow coalition of the Janta Party, Peasants Workers Party (PWP) and other smaller parties, senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar said.
When Mr. Sharad Pawar resigned, the Assembly session was on. “Even while the House was discussing supplementary demands, the government was reduced to a minority, following which Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil submitted his resignation,” Mr. Sharad Pawar writes in his book. However, with the return of Gandhi to power in 1980, his government was dismissed.
Political analyst Suhas Palshikar said, in a profile on the Maratha strongman titled A chapter named Pawar in a Marathi magazine, writes that Mr. Sharad Pawar led the party for over a decade and returned to the parent party under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi. “Because he decided to establish his own party and ran it a for decade, (it) helped him earn the image of a strongman.”