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Pawars' Deja Vu: Ajit's Overnight Coup a Reminder of Uncle Sharad's Action 41 Years Ago

In 1978, Pawar ran a rainbow coalition comprising the Janata Party and the Peasants Workers Party that lasted less than two years. Incidentally, this time he is trying to forge a similar alliance by joining hands with the Congress and the Shiv Sena.

PTI

Updated:November 23, 2019, 11:45 PM IST
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Pawars' Deja Vu: Ajit's Overnight Coup a Reminder of Uncle Sharad's Action 41 Years Ago
NCP chief Sharad Pawar leaves after a meeting with Congress and Sena leaders, at Nehru Centre in Mumbai, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (PTI Photo/Shashank Parade)

New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar's decision to join hands with the BJP in an act of overnight rebellion bears a striking resemblance to his uncle Sharad Pawar's coup against a government formed by two Congress factions to become the state's youngest chief minister 41 years ago.

In 1978, Pawar ran the rainbow coalition comprising the Janata Party and the Peasants Workers Party that 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.

Ajit Pawar was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister on Saturday morning, only to be snubbed by Sharad Pawar who said the decision to support the BJP was not backed by him and was his nephew's personal one.

In fact, 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.

Sharad 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. VN 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. Sharad Pawar stayed with Congress (S) and his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan.

In the state assembly polls held a month later, the Congress (S) won 69 seats as against the 65 of Congress (I). The Janata Party had won 99 seats. However, no party got a full majority.

The two factions of the Congress united to form the government headed by Vasantdada Patil from Congress (S) and with Nashikrao Tirpude from Congress (I) as the Deputy Chief Minister. However, the bickering between the two factions continued, making it difficult to run the government.

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," Chandrashekar had told him.

Sharad Pawar accordingly started seeking support of the MLAs. Sushilkumar Shinde, who went on to become the chief minister and then the Union Home Minister, Datta Meghe and Sundarrao Solanke sent their resignations to the chief minister.

Sharad Pawar walked out with 38 Congress MLAs to form a new government called Samantar Congress (Parallel Congress). He then became the youngest chief minister of the state at the age of 38.

The new government was a rainbow coalition of the Janata Party, Peasants Workers Party (PWP) and other smaller parties, senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar said. When Sharad Pawar resigned, the state 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," he writes.

However, with the return of Gandhi to power in 1980, his government was dismissed.

Political analyst Suhas Palshikar, in a profile on the Maratha strongman titled 'A chapter named Pawar' in a Marathi magazine, writes that 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," Palshikar writes.

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