Home Top Stories 1978 once more? Pawar play sees rainbow coalition | India News

1978 once more? Pawar play sees rainbow coalition | India News

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MUMBAI: NCP president Sharad Pawar’s cautious optimism and ability to bridge political divides stood out as the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena coalition was finally sealed on Friday, underscoring his role as the state’s most influential politician.
A key NCP functionary pointed out that Pawar had kept his word, recalling a poll rally in a western Maharashtra last month where the former Union minister and three-time CM had said he would go home only after “sending them (the BJP) packing”.
“In less than a month, Pawar has ousted the BJP from power in a bloodless coup that will have far-reaching impact on state politics,” the NCP functionary said, adding, “Pawarsaheb has emerged the real winner in the assembly polls.”
Now his administrative acumen and crisis management skills are expected to stand him in good stead while he tries to keep the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance on an even keel, said observers.
Days after the assembly poll results, even though it became apparent that Uddhav Thackeray was unlikely to give in to the BJP and give up his 50:50 power sharing formula, Pawar had kept his counsel.
For nearly a week, the cool-as-cucumber NCP president maintained that his party was content to play a “constructive” role as the Opposition in the state and that the mandate was in favour of the ruling BJP-Sena combine.
However, he kept open a line of communication with the Shiv Sena through friend and admirer Sanjay Raut who was invited to join him for tea and talks at his tree-lined Napean Sea Road residence. So while Thackeray stepped up his rhetoric against the BJP, Pawar began to cajole the Congress into joining a proposed tripartite alliance.
Soon, he was flitting between Mumbai and Delhi, holding talks with Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders, as also close confidantes in NCP; Raut, of course, remained a mere phone call away. Pawar’s tactical skills were evident from the fact that he kept both BJP and the media guessing through vague soundbytes.
At one stage, it looked as though Sonia Gandhi would continue to hew close to the party’s line on “ideological incompatibility” with the Sena. Unfazed, Pawar got down to fine-tuning a power-sharing formula and going through the draft of the common minimum programme, which, he was shrewd enough to know, would find favour with the state unit of the Congress.
Again, past experience came to Pawar’s help. On board the Progressive Democratic Front alliance, which he cobbled to oust the Congress Party from power in circa 1978, were disparate political elements such as the Jan Sanghis (the earlier avatar of the BJP) and dyed-in-the-wool Socialists. However, Pawar managed the balance of power with the exquisite skill of an Ikebana expert.
“Undermining Pawar’s clout and popularity was the BJP’s big folly,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik. Bigger folly was slapping the Enforcement Directorate (ED) notice on him, added the civil servant.
Stung, the NCP president vowed to take on the BJP. He sealed a pre-poll pact with the Congress, and single-handedly helmed the combined poll campaign. To start with, he extensively toured the state, holding more rallies than any leader, seeking votes and promising respite to drought-hit villagers.
“Once he makes up his mind, nothing can move my father even an inch from his resolve,” said Supriya Sule, Pawar’s daughter and NCP MP.
Pictures of the ageing war-horse–he will turn 80 next month–addressing a meeting in Satara amidst rains went viral and became the defining image of the 2019 elections. The rest, as they say, is history.





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