NCP celebrates 25th Foundation Day: A brief look at Sharad Pawar’s career

Mr. Pawar comes from the Baramati region of Maharashtra, which is a Lok Sabha constituency now held by his daughter Supriya Sule.

Updated - June 10, 2024 09:03 pm IST

Published - June 10, 2024 08:07 pm IST

NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) chief Sharad Pawar addresses the press conference after Lok Sabha election results, in Mumbai.

NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) chief Sharad Pawar addresses the press conference after Lok Sabha election results, in Mumbai. | Photo Credit: ANI/Nitin Lawate

The Nationalist Congress Party – Sharadchandra Pawar (NCP) celebrated its 25th Foundation Day at a ceremony in Pune, with veteran leader Sharad Pawar hoisting the flag in the presence of party leaders including party’s working President and elected Lok Sabha leader Supriya Sule.

Even though the NCP was formed in 1999 when Mr. Pawar decided to split from the Indian National Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign roots, his influence on Maharashtra, and Indian politics, has been at play for decades.

Mr. Pawar has achieved incredible heights in his political career that has spanned over six decades – he was undefeated in his 56 years of electoral politics since he first became MLA from Baramati (in Pune district) in 1967. He was the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra at age 38 in 1978 and led the State in that capacity a total of four times. And he has also held vital union Cabinet portfolios like defence and agriculture in previous Congress-led governments at the Centre.

In the 1998 book Sharad Pawar, the Maratha Legacy, authors Shiri Ram Bakshi, Sita Ram Sharma, and S. Gajrani recall the beginning of Mr. Pawar’s political engagement, when he organised a rally and a procession as a school-going boy in Maharashtra’s Ahmadnagar district in 1956, to support Goa’s liberation from Portuguese rule. He joined Youth Congress at 18, and the rest is history.

But most of all, Mr. Pawar’s appeal lies in his grassroots politics, as is evident from his 2021 memoir On My Terms: From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power. He followed closely in the footsteps of his mentor, Maharashtra’s first Chief Minister Yashwantrao Chavan, who was known as the leader of the common people for his ideology.

Mr. Pawar comes from Baramati region of Maharashtra, which is a Lok Sabha constituency now held by his daughter, Ms. Sule. Apart from the two of them, the politically influential family also includes his nephew Ajit Pawar, who split from the NCP to support BJP most recently in 2023, and his grandnephew Rohit Pawar, who is an MLA in the Maharashtra Assembly.

Often referred to as the Maratha strongman, Mr. Pawar is among the most cordial figures in Indian politics. Despite separating from the Congress party, he joined the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was the Minister of Agriculture from 2004 to 2014. Even though his politics are at odds with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has been praised by the BJP leader for his accomplishments, including the “Baramati model of development.”

Mr. Pawar’s ability to keep his foes to a bare minimum also has translated into surprise for his allies on many occasions. For example, when the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA bloc) was protesting against industrialist Gautam Adani due to allegations levelled against him by Hindenburg Research, Mr. Pawar met Mr. Adani in September 2023 and visited the businessman’s office and residence in Ahmedabad.

The NCP patriarch decided to not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and stepped down from his ministerial post after UPA lost majority in the polls. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 2014, and is currently a member of the Upper House. The party also lost the Maharashtra Assembly elections in the same year.

Apart from politics, Mr. Pawar has also made his presence felt in the world of cricket. He has served as the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the International Cricket Council (ICC), as well as the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).

Speaking at the NCP’s Foundation Day on Monday, Mr. Pawar said that people voted to put a check on power being concentrated in the hands of one or two people. His party won eight out of the 10 Lok Sabha seats it contested as part of the Opposition alliance. “The government’s reins are in the hands of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi but looking at the poll results, the people’s mandate is not of their convenience. Compared to the seats they won five years ago, their numbers have reduced this time. Their strength and majority in Parliament have reduced,” he was quoted as saying.

“Now it is my and your collective responsibility to work and aim for the State assembly elections so that after the poll results, power will be in your hands and we will ensure the use of power will be for the common people and those who are marginalised,” Mr. Pawar added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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